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GRAND RAPIDS (10/23) An overnight shower and some intermittent drizzle did little to slow the course at Riverside Park for the NAIA Great Lakes Invitational. Twenty-eight teams from six states showed up for the last big meet before conference championships in two weeks.
Off the starting line, Zach Ripley went immediately to the front and headed the lead pack through the mile mark in 4:47. CU's next three, Alex Green, Jared Courtright and Cody Risch arrived within ten seconds.
Ripley extended his lead to 50 meters by the time he hit the three mile mark in 14:37. Green was still in the top ten and under 14 minutes at three miles. The next four Golden Eagles got through three miles between 15:19 and 15:49.
In the final two miles, Ripley maintained his lead over Spring Arbor's Nathan Martin, his only real competition was the course record of 24:31 run by Nate Peck of Grand Valley State in 2006. Zach crossed the finish line in 24:30.90 (which gets rounded up to 24:31) tying Peck's mark, giving him two course records in two weeks.
The next six Golden Eagles set personal bests. Green placed in the awards, holding on to tenth in 25:02. Courtright broke 26 minutes for the first time clocking 25:44 for 28th. Risch just missed the 25's with his 26:03 in 46th. Travis Mabe made the biggest improvement lowering his best by 1:09 for a 26:25 to take 63rd. Peter Kaijala's 26:44 was a PR by 12 seconds and good for 78th and Kris Shear shaved 11 seconds off his best taking 101st in 27:09.
The top five combined for a team time of 2:07:47, the third fastest in school history. Cornerstone's 148 points placed sixth. Shawnee State, ranked second in the NAIA won with 45 points followed by seventh ranked Aquinas with 89. Just 34 seconds of team time separated the next four teams with 28th ranked St. Francis having the best day with 106 points edging ahead of 24th ranked Cedarville at 108 and 31st ranted Siena Heights' 129. Cornerstone came into the meet ranked 25th in the latest NAIA poll.
"The plan was to beat 20th ranked Olivet Nazarene and we did that," said coach Rod Wortley. "The guys ran incredibly well today but so did everyone else. Along with the three teams right in front of us, we wanted to show the raters we belong in the top 20. I'd say we did that, we'll see what the raters think next week."
Cornerstone races next on November 6, again at Riverside Park as they host the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Championships.