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There is nothing wrong with going into a big meet with something to prove.
"We might have a little chip on our shoulders," Cornerstone University cross country coach Rod Wortley said, as he finishes preparations to send the men's team to the NAIA Nationals in Fort Vancouver Park, WA.
"We think we've been under ranked most of the season and this will be a chance to show the raters that we can run with the top 10-15 teams in the country," Wortley said. The Golden Eagles, who finished third in the recent Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference meet, are ranked No. 22 going into the National Championship.
"You always go into a meet like this wanting to beat your ranking," Wortley said. "We certainly want to do that as the minimum standard this weekend."
Leading the way will be senior Zach Ripley, already a two-time cross country All-America in 2007 and 2009.
"It will be a great way for him to close out his career," Wortley said. "Zach was sixth at nationals last year, and the best a Cornerstone runner has ever done is fifth, so that challenge is there.
"He is undefeated this season, and set three course records, so now it is up to him to run his race and see where it gets him."
With the forecast calling for a chance of rain every day this week, the course could be wet.
"We go in knowing it will be a slower course," Wortley said, "and that changes the dynamics of the race. Actually, it probably favors the Midwest runners a little, because this is what we've been training in."
Eight runners are going to Washington for the weekend.
"I think Alex Green is on the bubble," Wortley said. The top 30 make the All-America team, and he has shown signs that he can be there. It just depends what kind of race he has in him that day.
"Nobody else looks like a top 30 threat, but we have guys like Jared Courtright and Travis Mabe, who have been there before. You can never underestimate what that past experience means in a meet like this."
The bottom line is pretty simple.
"It is always an honor to qualify for the Nationals," Wortley said. "It is a reward for working hard and making the commitment. I'm proud of what these guys have accomplished."