Two students earned trips to the NAIA National Championship after their times in the 2018 Sooner Athletic Conference meet placed them in the top 10.
On Nov. 3, the John Brown University cross country teams drove to Oklahoma City, Okla., to compete for the last race of the season. However, for freshman Allika Pearson and sophomore Ben Martin, their season finishes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Nov. 16. Pearson scored her personal collegiate best time and a new program record. With a time of 19:26, Pearson finished eighth, and now has the highest individual finish at the SAC Championships in JBU’s women cross country history. Martin also finished 8th with a time of 26:46.
Both the men and women’s team placed third overall which was determined by the top five finishers for the team. The women’s team raced their best time at the SAC championships since 2014 with a total time of 1:40:51.
Sophomore Sarah Larson finished in 22nd place, just after senior Regan Roth, who finished 20th. Larson said during this season they faced some harder courses than the previous year but they all tried their best to work together. Although both teams finished one ranking away from a trip to nationals, Larson said that brought them closer together as a team.
“We’ve gone through hard times together—hard training together, morning practices, just exhausting workouts week after week—but I think that’s what makes us so close,” Larson said. “We experience the pain together, and we can acknowledge that.”
Senior Hannah Fiser said running on the cross country team brings a very unique culture wherever they go.
“I also just love running with so many positive, joyful girls, sometimes we’re just completely goofy on runs but sometimes if were on a really long run we can have really deep conversations,” Fiser said.
Fiser said at the meets they have a routine they follow to prepare for the race. “We all go on a run to warm up together, stretch, go to the starting line, and talk a little about racing strategies, about the teams that are there.” After that, they remove their warm clothes such as sweatpants and hoodies to get ready for the gun to go off.
After the women run their 5K, approximately 3.1 miles, the men begin their race of an 8K, approximately 4.9 miles. For the men at the SAC Championships the top five finishers had a combined time of 2:17:03, their second best time of the season. Ben Martin, Jacob Benjamin, Josh Uzelac, Michael Games and John Unruh were the top five finishers for JBU.
Senior Jacob Benjamin finished 13th in the race and earned a spot on the All-Conference list along with Martin. Benjamin finished with a time of 21:16, followed closely by senior Josh Uzelac who finished 16th, just 13 seconds behind Benjamin.
Benjamin said that running for JBU is both an individual and a team sport because he does not want to let the other guys down.
“You have to want to keep pushing through, because it’s rather unpleasant running that much. It’s not the most enjoyable sport all the time, but I think having a team that really encourages you to stick with it … I really enjoy the team aspect of it all.”
“As a student-athlete, it kind of gives me a break from academics every now and then, something else to focus on,” Benjamin said. “That’s always been nice at the end of a long school day—just to go on a run with the guys.”