(Grand Rapids, Mich.) The fifth annual NAIA Great Lakes Challenge hosted by Aquinas College had everything good about Cross Country racing: partly cloudy skies, crisp autumn temperature, wet but solid footing for 352 men from 34 teams to run 8,000 meters in front of hundreds of spectators.
The Cornerstone men, running all of their top five for the first time this season needed a good race to move up from 20th in the NAIA national rankings.
Senior, Travis Mabe was not in the top 50 when he passed the mile mark in 5:05, but as he has done for four years, moved steadily through the field. Behind him Cody Risch and Thomas Bambach ran within a few meters of each other the entire race.
Jared Courtright and Louis Falland, both recently returning from injuries, raced a bit more conservatively and pulled within eight seconds of one another in the final mile.
"We needed to show we had five strong runners and they did that today," said Coach Nate Van Holten. "We make strides every race and get a little better and this was a part of that process"
By the finish, Mabe worked his way up to 12th, lowering his best time to 25:29. Bambach crossed in 22nd, clocking 25:54 with Risch four places back in 26:00. Courtright ran 26:23 in 44th and Falland arrived in 26:31 taking 48th.
The University of St. Francis, IL, currently ranked third in the NAIA won the team title with 50 points over sixth ranked Shawnee State, OH. WHAC rivals and tenth rated Aquinas took third with 99, just ahead of Cornerstone's 152 points. "Overall we held form and had a great day," Van Holten said. "A few more tweaks and the conference meet will be even more exciting."