The 2016 Shippensburg University men’s cross-country team finished its season in Saint Leo, Florida, with 16th place at the NCAA Division II Cross-Country Championships on Saturday.
Senior Kieran Sutton had a spectacular race, covering the 10K course in 31:00.9. He finished in 25th-place to earn All-American status. The Top 40 finishers at the meet are recognized as All-Americans.
As a team, SU scored 401 points. This was good enough to finish with the most points among Atlantic Region teams. Behind SU were Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) foes Lock Haven University and Edinboro University, who finished in 23rd and 28th-place, respectively.
For the Raiders, the Abbey Course proved to be a challenge. Pre-race temperatures were over 60 degrees with nearly 90 percent humidity. The race was even held at 8:30 a.m. to attempt to avoid excessive heat. The course featured numerous hills that also challenged the runners.
SU got off to a strong start early in the race, holding steady in 13th-place around the 4.2-Kilometer mark.
Then, the team started to push hard in the second half of the race. Sutton quickly climbed positions, starting at 139th-place, before pushing the whole way up to the Top 40 with only 3 kilometers left in the race.
The 25th-place finish for Sutton is the best finish by a men’s runner at nationals since assistant coach Matt Gillette finished in 17th-place in 2012.
The race was the final collegiate cross-country race of Sutton’s career. Sutton’s 2016 finish was 21 spots ahead of his 46th-place finish from last season. Overall, Sutton has made great strides, improving from his 193rd-place finish in 2013 as a freshman.
Finishing second for the Raiders was junior Alex Balla. Balla finished in 78th-place overall, with a 10K time of 32:02. Balla was hanging around the Top 80 for most of the race, but found a second gear at towards the end, pushing within the Top 80. Last season, Balla was SU’s third finisher at nationals, giving him two Top-3 Raider performances in his two national championship appearances.
Braden Bruning finished in 110th-place in his final race, finishing as SU’s third runner with a 10K time of 32:22.9. Bruning had a strong start to the race, cracking the Top 80, before battling to keep position.
Dominic Stroh and Calvin Conrad-Kline finished out the scoring for the Raiders at nationals, finishing in 112th and 151st, respectively.
The NCAA Division II National Championship appearance was the third straight under current SU coach Steve Spence. It also marked the sixth time in the last seven years the Raiders made nationals under Spence. Overall, it was SU’s 19th appearance at the NCAA Championships.
The race marks the end of an incredible cross-country season that saw the men’s team sweep PSAC’s and the Atlantic Regional meet. Next season, the Raiders will return Top 5 finishers Balla, Stroh and Conrad-Kline, and hope to make another run at the coveted podium finish.