(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
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.
While Green tried to match Siena and Aquinas' top runners,
sophomores Jared Courtright and Cody Risch worked to crack both Saints' top
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.
Senior Kris Shear led sophomore Darryl Sluka to a PR with
Kris taking 38th in 27:28 ahead of Darryl's 27:36 in 39th.
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.