POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- Tomorrow, the Sabercats Cross Country seasons have their grand finale at NCCAA Nationals. The final event will be the "kick" for the 2019 season - after long weeks of training, it's time for one final exertion.
Twelve and a half weeks, 87 days of formal team training, six meets, and endless miles and ice buckets will all culminate into one final meet, as NCCAA schools from across the country converge at the College of the Ozarks for one final test.
Context: The Sabercats come into the season finale not having run in a competitive race since the 25th of October and the Oshkosh Open. So yes, this presents the challenge of competitive sharpness, but at the same time, the two squads have been able to tailor their training regimen to peak at the right time.
Course: The second challenge the squads will face is the ever-formidable course down in the Ozarks. It's the same course they ran last year - the one with "the hill" - a long, steep climb in the middle of the course that reduces nationals-caliber runners to nothing more than a walk.
A fast course? Anything but. Setting a PR at this course is an achievement in itself.
Competition: On the men's side, Bob Jones University is slated to have the best time of anyone by over four minutes, but history tells that anything can happen at this course. Here's the latest NCCAA DII Top 5 for the men:
|School||Team Time (8K)||Date||Meet||2018 NCCAA Finish|
|Bob Jones University||2:18:25||10/11/19||Royals Challenge||1st|
|Ozark Christian College||2:22:53||10/26/19||Last Chance Meet||2nd|
|Kansa Christian College||2:34:57||10/26/19||Last Chance Meet||DNP|
|Alice Lloyd College||2:53:26||9/21/19||Patty Forgey Invitational||3rd|
For the Women, the Sabercats rank 6th in the NCCAA DII but are less than a minute behind 5th-place Grace Christian University:
|School||Team Time (5K)*||Date||Meet||2018 NCCAA Finish|
|Moody Bible Institute||1:44:46||10/11/19||Bethel Invitational||1st|
|Bob Jones University||1:46:21||10/11/19||Royals Challenge||3rd|
|Alice Lloyd College||1:51:40||10/5/19||Louisville Classic||2nd|
|Ozark Christian College||1:52:32||10/26/19||Last Chance Meet||4th|
|Grace Christian University||1:57:01||10/11/19||Jayhawk Invite||DNP|
*Includes 5K adjustment for a 6K event
Fopma in First: Since Caleb Wagner's 1st-place finish at the 2015 NCCAA National Championship, no one from Maranatha has been the first to cut the tape at the season finale. Jeremy Fopma's time of 26:28 (Wisconsin Private College Championships, October 19) is the fastest recorded time in the NCCAA DII this season, but Fopma will have to hold of Ozark Christian's Eli Connatser, who ran a 26:37 time in Joplin, Missouri on October 26. A dark horse for the final meet is Kansas Christian's Daniel Nega, who ran a 26:58 time at the same event as Connatser.
That nine-second separation between Fopma and Connatser is enough to make the season finale a nail-biter. And Connaster will be hungry - he won Nationals in 2018.
Forecasted Finishes: Setting a PR at this year's Nationals will be a challenge, to say the least. Listed below are the PR's for each runner on the squads for the 2019 season.
|PR (Men's Team)||Time (8K)||Date||Event|
|Jeremy Fopma||26:01||11/10/18||NCAA Central Regionals|
|Jordan Hoffman||30:34||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Jefferson Rupert||31:17||9/6/19||Dutch Invitational|
|James Rossiter||33:34||10/14/17||Wis. Private College Champ's|
|Heath Holmes||33:40||10/11/19||Bethel Invitational|
|Drew Smith||34:20||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Jonathan Gilliam||34:24||10/11/19||Bethel Invitational|
|Eric Schmid||38:39||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|PR (Women's Team)||Time (6K)||Date||Event|
|Katie Jean Lingle||27:57||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Abigail Doak||27:59||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Sierra John||28:05||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Anna Rossiter||28:09||10/13/18||Wis. Private College Champ's|
|Taylor Ellis||29:20||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Abigail Shetter||31:19||10/25/19||Oshkosh Open|
|Haly Hendricks||35:07||9/30/17||Warrior Invitational|