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(Grand Rapids, Mich.) The coldest morning of the season did little to discourage athletes and spectators at the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Cross Country Championship. The ground at Riverside Park course was hard and fast and the absence of any wind meant this would be a great day to run.
The Cornerstone Golden Eagles knew that defending their 2009 team title would be a tall order with both the seventh ranked Aquinas Saints and the 22nd ranked Saints of Siena Heights aiming for the win.
Defending individual champion, Zach Ripley continued his unbeaten final season of collegiate racing leading from the gun, just as he did two weeks ago when he tied the Riverside Park course record. Today the plan was to sit back in the early miles and pull teammate Alex Green along, hoping to duplicate their 1-2 finish from a year ago. After passing two miles in 9:55, Ripley dropped a 4:54 third mile, opening a significant gap on the field who had already conceded the race to him.
Ripley crafted a masterpiece for his final race through Riverside. After a 4:56 fourth mile he needed just 4:43 to reach the finish line. A determined kick shaved another three seconds off his course record and two seconds off his personal best time for 8,000 meters.
Green held on for sixth in 25:19 while Courtright and Risch stayed close to the top twenty with near personal best times of 25:58 (17th) and 26:09 (21st) respectively.
Sophomore Travis Mabe and senior Peter Kaijala were never more than a couple strides apart. Mabe was just six seconds off his best in 26:32 (26th) while Kaijala lowered his PR to 26:38 one place back.
When it was over, Siena handed Aquinas their second upset loss in the last two years, winning the meet with 35 points to 45. Cornerstone held on to third with 65 ahead of Indiana Tech's 85. Davenport (132), Concordia (189) and Madonna (191) completed the field.
Ripley earned All-Conference and Conference Runner of the Year honors for the second straight season with Green making the All-WHAC team for the second time. The two qualified for the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, WA in two weeks.