JACKSON, Miss. – The Grace College cross country team exceeded expectations at the 2016 NCCAA National Championships on Saturday.
Both teams placed fifth, marking the women’s best finish since 1985 and the men’s best since 2002.
Raven Arellano and Ben Rankin both earned All-American status individually to lead Grace. Arellano was 14th with a personal-best time of 18:38, and Rankin finished 10th in a time of 25:54. Rankin became the first men’s runner from Grace to earn NCCAA All-American status since Corey Drake and Art Woodruff in 2003.
“This was a great way to end the team portion of our season. You never know how the athletes will respond after a long trip, but the women started things off with a gutsy race. The men followed with another good effort, topping our expectations with a fifth-place finish,” said Grace head coach Jeff Raymond. “Raven and Ben both put themselves into one of the leading packs early in their races. They fought to keep their positions and had strong finishes.”
Nathan Lane was second for Grace in 26:52, and Joel Bertelsen was not far behind in 27:07 for 30th place.
Tyler Houvener (27:42) and Hunter Reed (27:47) finished a mere five seconds apart, and Sam Hall (28:05) and Brandon Hamilton (28:12) also maintained a tight pack.
The men’s team time was only 2:12 out of third place in the 17-team championship race.
On the women’s side, freshman Brigit Nemitz ran a strong race behind Arellano to finish in 19:47 for 33rd place. Emma Mitchell was just four seconds and two places behind Nemitz.
McCallah Mast was fourth on the team in a time of 20:43, and freshmen Jessica Zvers (20:51) and Brooke Smith (20:54) rounded out the Lady Lancers.
Arellano and Rankin will continue their seasons next weekend at the 2016 NAIA National Championships, held in Elsah, Ill.