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Grace Cross Country sweeps NCCAA national titles

The historic season for the Grace College’s cross country teams continued at the NCCAA National Championships, with both the men’s and women’s teams bringing home national titles. The championships are the first for Grace in cross country, and mark the fifth and sixth NCCAA titles for Lancer athletics in the past three years. Overall, the school has claimed eight national titles.

Competing at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course in Joplin, Missouri, the Grace women not only won the title, but did it in impressive fashion by claiming the top three individual positions. Mallory Hiatt took the individual championship in a time of 18:16, edging out teammates Kylie Sauder, who ran 18:17, and Heather Plastow, who finished in 18:18. Each of the three earned NCCAA All-American recognition.

Anna Hulstedt finished 15th and Caroline Kolb 18th to complete the top five for the Lancers with times of 19:23 and 19:37 respectively. Elizabeth Moore came in 22nd in 19:45, and Katie Acker was 24th in 19:51. Five of the seven runners set personal-best times as the group shattered their own team-time record. The top five finishers for the Lancers totaled a time of 1:33:51, topping the school record set earlier this season.

Grace ended with 37 points, ahead of Campbellsville (Ky.) with 80, Bethel (Ind.) with 101 and Ozarks (Mo.) with 102.

The men’s squad displayed an even more dominating performance.

Six Lancers crossed the line among the top-10 overall runners; each earned NCCAA All-American honors.

Bryan Hernandez-Rios claimed the individual championship, finishing the 8,000-meter course in 25:36. Logan Rufenacht was second in 25:51. Freshmen Justin Van Prooyen (26:19) and Brandon Kleeber (26:21) were fifth and sixth overall, posting personal-best times. Macallister Cheek also ran a personal-best time and ended up ninth in 26:28. Isaac Beatty finished 10th in 26:45. Nathan Woolery, a last-minute substitute, crossed the line in 19th with a time of 27:15.

Woolery replaced number two runner Dimitri Margaritidis, who sat out the race with injury and will prepare to run in next week’s NAIA National Championships.

Grace finished with 23 points to easily outdistance Bethel with 63, Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.) with 70 and Judson (Ill.) with 121.

Poyner was named the NCCAA Coach of the Year on both the men’s and women’s sides.

“We’re proud of these men and women for coming out and executing the game plan,” said Grace head coach Jake Poyner. “All glory to God. We are grateful for the gift of safe travels and great competition. I’d also like to thank our assistant coaches (Alexandria Sanchez, Drew Jones) for all their hard work with the teams.”

Both teams will travel to the Pacific Northwest next week to compete in the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Wash. It will be just the second-ever appearance for the Grace men’s program at the NAIA meet, and the first-ever appearance for the women’s program.

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