Cross Country wins NCAA Division II Atlantic Region title
The Shippensburg University cross-country team is at it again this week, as both the women’s and men’s squads took home the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regionals title.
On Saturday, the Raiders traveled to Slippery Rock University to compete in the Atlantic Regional championships. This year’s regionals were held just two weeks before the NCAA Division II National Championships.
The men’s team took home gold while accumulating 41 points. The race was the men’s second consecutive Atlantic Region title and the third in school history.
Going into the weekend, SU was ranked No. 19 in the nation. The team proved it deserved the ranking with a 22-point spread above the second-place team. Arriving at the Cooper’s Lake Campground, SU had all of its scorers finish among the Top 18 runners.
With the impressive finish, SU will now be traveling to the NCAA Division II National Championships in Saint Leo, Florida, on Nov. 19.
SU is going to be accompanied at nationals by two other PSAC teams, Lock Haven University (62 points), Edinboro University (72 points).
Consistency flows through this young team, as the Raiders have now qualified for the national championships in each of its last three seasons. Head coach Steve Spence has led his team to six national championship appearances in the last seven years as SU’s cross-country coach. Additionally, the famously high-octane program has appeared at the national championships a whopping 19 times in the school’s history — solidifying its prowess in the collegiate running world.
Alex Balla had his best performance of the year on Saturday, finishing in third-place behind teammate Kieran Sutton.
Senior Kieran Sutton finished first for the Raiders, coming in second-place overall with a time of 32:36. The race was his second second-place finish at the regional meet.
Junior Alex Balla crossed the finish line roughly 15 seconds after Sutton, taking home a third-place finish with a time of 32:51. With this race in the books, Balla has achieved his second All-Region finish in his career. That is a two-spot improvement from his fifth-place finish at last season’s regional competition.
The third SU finisher, Braden Bruning, completed the race in eighth, clocking in just around 33:12. With the finish, he snatches up his third career All-Region honor.
Junior Calvin Conrad-Kline continues to dominate with an 11th-place finish, in just 33:22. The respectable finish puts Conrad-Kline on the list for his second career All-Region performance.
Freshman Rob Moser completed the race in 33:46, taking home 17th-place. Junior Cole Nissley trailed his teammate, placing 18th with a time of 33:47.
Wrapping up the domination was freshman Michael Urban, who pushed through to complete the race in 61st-place in 35:46.
While all of the returners on the roster improved from their respective finish’s last year, they see the potential that this coalition of young runners has to make a shot at a national title.
The women’s team took home a first-place regionals finish of its own, as well. The 2016 NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Championships featured the first time the SU women’s cross-country team claimed the title since 2012.
All of the Raiders’ scorers came within the Top 20 participants en route to achieving its eighth regional title in school history. SU finished in first place as a team by scoring 57 points. PSAC adversaries, Bloomsburg University (66 points) and Seton Hill University (146 points) will accompany SU at the NCAA Division II National Championships.
This appearance is the Raiders’ ninth-consecutive national championship berth under Spence, and the team’s 14th-overall appearance.
Casey Norton led the Raiders with a first-place overall finish in just 22:21. According to SU Sports Information, Norton is Shippensburg’s first Atlantic Region champion since Katie Spratford did so in 2012.
Norton is now the first runner since Neely Spence Gracey to achieve All-Region honors four times.
Following Norton was junior Caity Reese, who finished strong in sixth place with a time of 23:14. The key finish by Reese helped expand the margin between Bloomsburg and Shippensburg. This helped solidify the victory for SU, and locked up Reese’s second All-Region outing.
Sophomore Jackie Kinkead was the third finisher for the Raiders, coming in 13th place with a time of 23:36. This is an exponential improvement from her 54th-place finish a year ago.
Juniors Lizzie Manickas and Bryanna Dissinger pulled through big time for SU, as they finished 18th (23:47) and 21st (23:50). Manickas picked up her second-career All-Region honors with the clutch performance, leading the middle of the pack to secure key points for SU. Dissinger was able to pick up her first All-Region honor and improve 10 spots over last year’s regional debut.
Sophomore Lindsey Gerlach was the 24th-place finisher in her Atlantic Region championships debut, completing the race in just 23:55. Her performance was good enough for her first career All-Region honor.
Freshman Lydia Cagle rounded out the competition for SU with a 32nd-place finish at 24:18.
The team performance impressed bystanders and opposing teams, as the young roster looks to take the nation by storm at the NCAA Division II National Championships. They will take place in Saint Leo, Florida, on Nov. 19.