After an eventful fall season, the Bradley cross country team wrapped up its final meet last Friday. Both the men and women won the Missouri Valley Championship and went to Columbia, Missouri for the NCAA Midwest Regional.
On the women’s side, the Braves finished third out of 33 schools. The top two finishers at regionals advanced to the NCAA Championship and all third place teams fates were in the hands of a selection committee, which ultimately did not pick the Braves women’s team to move on.
Senior Tyler Schwartz led Bradley with a ninth place finish and a time of 20:23.2 in the 6K race. Sophomore Nicola Jansen followed with a 20:26.8 clockage and an 11th place finish.
Culminating in a bronze medal at the regionals, head coach Darren Gauson was impressed by the women this entire season.
“It’s hard to run any better than what we did,” Gauson said. “We were ranked fourth in the region. We ended up getting third beating Illinois, Iowa State and other great teams.”
Following Jansen in second, Peyton Schieppe, Wilma Nielsen and Tianna LoStracco all finished in the top 50 for the Braves. With the third-place mark, Bradley tied their record for highest finish in school history set in 2014. Even with the record-setting performance, Jansen felt there was still room for improvement.
“It definitely didn’t end the way I wanted it to but we still ended third as a team which is pretty good from last year,” Jansen said. “I’m a little disappointed in my own race but I’m definitely happy with the team.”
In the 10K men’s race, Bradley finished eighth out of 27 teams. Senior George Watson was highest-performing Brave by finishing 30th with a time of 30:10.2. Fellow senior Alec Danner was only a few seconds behind in 32nd place, boasting a 30:14.0 finish.
Behind Danner was Matt Aho, Michael Rebello and Caleb Lind as the next finishers for the Braves. Along with the women, the men took first in the Valley under Gauson at the conference championship. Watson felt he competed the best he ever has, but was still hungry for more.
“I was pleased to put myself in the position after the race where I knew I executed as best as I could,” Watson said. “I was still hoping to be a little higher up in all honesty. I can’t beat myself up about that; I can only learn lessons for next time.”
With the indoor track and field season coming up, Bradley is in a good position to carry momentum over from the cross country season. Winning the MVC and finishing in the top of the NCAA Midwest Regional are things that the Braves aim to continue, especially after winning the men’s and women’s 5,000-meters in the indoor season a year ago. Gauson is pushing the runners as they are projected to finish higher than they ever have.
“Our women are on pace for our best ever finish indoors,” Gauson said. “One of our goals for our women [is] to be in the top two. We’d be happy with a top four on the men’s side.”
The Braves start the indoor track and field season on Dec. 4 at the John Coughlan Invite at Illinois State.