The Kick

The Kick

THE LEAD

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.

THE CHALLENGE

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
Maranatha 2:40:40 10/11/19 Bethel Invitational   4th
Alice Lloyd College 2:53:26 9/21/19 Patty Forgey Invitational   3rd

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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
Maranatha 1:58:00 10/11/19 Bethel Invitational  5th

*Includes 5K adjustment for a 6K event

THE POTENTIAL

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
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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

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THE RACE

To follow NCCAA Nationals, follow @MBUSabercats on Twitter or find live results at mbusabercats.com/schedule.

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