VANCOUVER, Wash. - Fall sports officially came to a close for the Goshen College Athletics Department as a pair of Maple Leafs competed at the 57th Annual NAIA Cross Country National Championships on Saturday.
It was a rainy, wet, and sloppy course at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site with a total of 655 student-athletes (combined men's and women's field) from 133 different NAIA institutions lining up.
It was a tough day for the Maple Leaf runners as they battled the conditions and large, elite field. Senior Billy Funk (Gallup, N.M.) ran to a 176th-place finish of 26:51, while sophomore Jordan Smeltzer (New Paris, Ind.) came in at 229th in 27:22.
The University of Saint Francis (Ill.) won the event with 138 points, while The Master's College's (Calif.) John Gilbertson won the 8k event individual title in 23:56.
While not the finishes they had hoped for, the consistency and growth of the Maple Leafs men's running program in recent years has been evident behind the duo. Goshen received votes in the NAIA national poll in six of the eight rankings throughout the season reaching as high as #27 in the country.
The national appearances of Funk and Smeltzer (his second straight) also marked just the third time in program history and second in a row in which the Maple Leafs have sent two men to the national championship meet.
In addition to this winter/ spring's track season, Smeltzer will be one of three returning All Crossroads League honorees to a team which will have five of its top six back in uniform in 2013.
Also this weekend, 10 Goshen College cross country student-athletes were recognized as NAIA Scholar-Athletes. To earn the honor, student-athletes must have at least a junior academic standing, been enrolled at the institution for at least one year, and have a cumulative grade points average of at least 3.50.
Maple Leafs who were recognized were Jake Gunderkline (Yellow Springs, Ohio), Abe Stucky (Moon Township, Pa.), Lydia Alderfer (Harleysville, Pa.), Becca Augsburger (Nicholasville, Pa.), Hannah Bartel (Iowa City, Iowa), Alli Beitler (Berne, Ind.), Karla Folker (Goshen, Ind.), Erin Helmuth (Plainfield, Ind.), Audrey Thill (Paoli, Ind.) and Alita Yoder (Elkhart, Ind.).