Updated: Oct 28
Belmont cross country coach Jeff Langon said that the women’s team expected to win the Missouri Valley Conference championship.
Anything else would be a disappointment.
As the runners continued to cross the finish line on Friday, that fear of disappointment turned into excitement.
With five runners in the top 15, the Bruins clinched the school’s first ever MVC championship.
Junior Kaitlyn Vanderkolk led most of the race until Drake University’s Brooke Mullins passed her with roughly 800 meters remaining.
She was unable to pass Mullins, finishing in second place with a time of 20:29.8.
Behind her, senior Grace Litzinger came in seventh with a personal best time of 21:02.6.
Graduate student Katie Flaherty followed in ninth place while junior Brooke Stromsland and senior Brooke Garter finished in 10th and 12th place respectively.
With those top-15 finishes, the Bruins’ overall score of 40 was 19 more than second place Bradley University.
Vanderkolk, Litzinger, Flaherty and Stromsland earned All-MVC honors while Garter secured an all-conference honorable mention.
Coach Kate Bucknam saw the win as the culmination of all the girls’ dedication.
“These girls have worked so hard for this,” Bucknam said. “They might’ve made it look easy, but it took a lot of work to get to today. I’m just proud of how the girls jumped on the opportunity.”
As the Belmont sidelines were filled with screams of excitement, the men’s team took its spots at the starting spot, hoping to improve upon its fourth-place finish last season.
Throughout the race, Drake University, which was predicted to win, had multiple runners in the top 10.
But juniors Zac Shaffer and Ethan Hammer found themselves at the top of the pack.
At one point, Shaffer even took the lead.
But Drake was too strong for any team to overcome, having four runners finish in the top ten.
For the Bruins, Shaffer finished in fifth with a personal best time of 24:41.9.
Hammer and junior Kevin Vanderkolk were the other two Bruins in the top 15, finishing in 12th and 14th respectively.
But would it be enough to get second place?
As the Bruins anxiously awaited results, the loudspeakers announced that Bradley had 71 points,
Belmont had 72, meaning the Bruins finished No. 3.
But while the runners were disappointed, Langdon was proud of his team.
“We did everything we could,” Landon said. “We moved up a few points from the 800 to the finish. Wolf and Cheeseman both passed one guy right at the finish. That made it as close as it was. I was proud of that mentality.”
On Nov. 10, the men and women travel to Gainesville, Florida for the NCAA South Regional.
For the women’s team, it’s a chance to continue its dominance.
For the men’s team, it’s a chance at redemption.
But Langdon had one message for the team in the huddle.
“We have not done well at regionals. But it’s time,” he said.
This article was written by Ty Wellemeyer