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Watson establishes all-time school record at Pre-Nationals, women place third at Pink Classic

Junior Sophia McDonnell runs at the Bradley Pink Classic. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

Bradley’s men’s cross country team received a taste of the postseason last Friday, finishing 26th out of 40 schools at the NCAA Pre-National Invitational in Florida. Back in Peoria, the women’s team placed third out of 37 schools at the Bradley Pink Classic but, most importantly, first among the nine Missouri Valley Conference schools at the race. 

Junior George Watson made school history on the 8K course at Appalachee Regional Park, in Tallahassee, Florida, where the NCAA Championship race is held, by finishing 64th overall, clocking a school record of 23:58.3. His mark was almost five seconds quicker than the previous record of 24:03.07, set by Michael Ward in 2015. 

Needless to say, Watson was in good spirits thanks to his performance at Pre-Nationals and felt proud to establish a new 8K school record. 

“I know the guy that had the record before me, Michael Ward,” Watson said. “I still look up to him; I think he is a great guy.” 

Head coach Darren Gauson thinks Watson is in good shape and will be competing for the MVC championship on Oct. 29.

“He’s got a chance to be a conference champion,” Gauson said. 

Senior Alec Danner was also among the Braves’ top five, as he finished in 121st place with a time of 24:22.6. Classmate Matt Aho finished with a time of 24:50.3, senior Charlie Parrish crossed the line at 24:53.1 and junior Eddie Narbett stopped the clock at 24:55.9. 

In the women’s competition at the Bradley Pink Classic, freshman Nicola Jansen finished the 6K with a time of 20:54.6, under a second away from establishing a new best time by a Bradley runner at its home meet. Her time was Bradley’s fifth-best mark in Braves history for the 6K. 

Jansen thinks that practicing is a very important aspect of cross country, but she also believes mentality is a huge factor for runners to perform at their highest level. 

“That’s the toughest part of running; it’s 50% training and 50% mentality,” Jansen said. 

Gauson is surprised with how well Jansen has performed in the past few competitions and sees a lot of potential in her for the next few years. 

“She is good; I knew she was a great recruit coming in, [but] I didn’t know she was going to be this good,” Gauson said. “She has done an outstanding job.”

Sophomore Ashley Maguire (21:16.5), junior Sophia McDonnell (21:20.6), sophomore Julia Nielsen (22:16.8) and junior Lily Strauss (22:37.7) capped offthe top five for the Braves. 

With their best runners in Florida, the Bradley men placed 22nd out of 31 schools at the Pink Classic. Freshman Jack Crull led a younger Braves lineup by placing 16th in the 8K course with a time of 24:28.6. He established a new best mark by any Brave at their home meet, beating the previous standard set by Taylor Floyd Mews in 2017. 

Gauson was happy with Crull’s running and believes he can step up to help the team. 

“[Crull] had an outstanding performance at the Pink Classic; he ran really well,” Gauson said. “He will run at conference and can make a big difference.” 

Gauson thinks both teams are performing brilliantly and will be fighting to get to the NCAA championships this year. 

“If we are not sick, and we are healthy, we will have a great chance of winning both championships and both individuals, those are the key things,” Gauson said. “The future looks really bright for our team.” 

The Braves will be back in action today competing at the Illini Open. After that, all eyes will turn to the MVC Championship on Oct. 29 at Illinois State.

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