The Bradley men’s cross country team finished 24th in its NCAA Championship debut Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Braves were just three points shy of 23rd place behind Villanova, coming into the meet ranked 25th in the nation. Head coach Darren Gauson was pleased with the team’s performance on the national stage.
“The team handled themselves really well,” Gauson said. “We went in there to better our ranking of 25th and finishing 24th on our first showing was a phenomenal accomplishment.”
Gauson said the team sent a message to the rest of the country with their top 25 performance in Madison.
“I think Bradley University finishing 24th shows that the smaller mid-major teams can compete at the national level,” Gauson said. “We are just so excited to represent the school at the highest level.”
Individually, the Braves were led by seniors Michael Ward and Haran Dunderdale in 106th and 115th respectively. Behind the seniors were juniors Jake Hoffert, Will Anderson and Luke Hoffert in 125th, 127th and 151st. Freshman Jack Franklin finished 201st and sophomore Alec Danner rounded out the lineup in 209th.
The course was covered in fresh snow, but the Braves were prepared with the weather, according to Gauson.
“We really enjoyed the cold weather and the snow,” Gauson said. “We ran in snow at the Pink Classic and Regionals, so we knew we could go out there and deliver a performance.”
Gauson hopes this is not the last the country will be seeing of his squad.
“We don’t want to be one of those teams that gets there and never makes it again for 10 years,” Gauson said. “We want to be competing at the national meet on a consistent basis. We need to build on this.”
Gauson will look to build on this next year when he returns the entire lineup except Ward and Dunderdale.
“We have some excellent athletes in the program who are eager to get back to the national meet in the near future,” Gauson said. “This group has done a phenomenal job of putting Bradley on the map.”
Additionally, on Tuesday the team announced the signing of three women and four men for next season. The signees include Max McDaniel, the Missouri high school cross country champion, Arizona State transfer Simon Paige and Loughborough University transfer Danni Webb.