Spartans finish 21st at NJCAA Championships

NJCAA National Championships

FORT DODGE - The Southwestern men's cross country team finished 21st in Division I at the 2020 NJCAA National Cross Country Championships Saturday.

The Spartans finished 35 points back of a top 20 finish, scoring 537 points. The Spartans spent much of the season ranked 21st in the USTFCCCA national poll. As a team, the Spartan men ran their best team average of the season at 30:49, a 12-second improvement from the regional meet which was held on the same course two weeks prior.

"Going into the meet we thought we could finish top 20, and maybe get up into the top 17 or so if everything clicked for us on Saturday," Director of Cross Country/Track & Field Scott Vicker said. "All six of our men either ran a PR on Saturday or ran their second-best time of the season. Other teams had good days, too, and there's nothing we can do about that. I told our men before the race all they needed to do was focus on what they could control. They did that, and so I was very happy with the result."

Southwestern was paced once again by freshman Josh Baudler, who finished 38th with his time of 27:16.71. Baudler, who finished 15th in the Division I race at the Region XI championships held his finishing position from that day and was the 15th Region XI competitor across the finish line. Freshman Connor Koppa was just one second off his PR, finishing 122nd in 30:39.60. Freshman Nicholas Mather was one of two Spartan runners who ran a PR Saturday, clocking a 30:55.39 for a 22-second improvement over his previous best.

"We had been working with Nick all season to get out faster at the start of his race," Vicker said. "I am proud of him for getting out of his comfort zone Saturday and getting out hard. Nick was just a couple of seconds away from running his PR in the mile through the first mile of the race, and he had a gutsy performance to run a 22-second 8K PR. That is a difficult way to run an 8K, but Nick kept fighting the whole way. I hope this performance gives him confidence going into next season."

Sophomore Ahmed Fofana also ran a PR for the Spartans, cutting 49 seconds off his previous best time. Fofana crossed the line in 32:12.07. Freshman Levi Detrick rounded out the team scoring for the Spartans with his time of 33:02.96, while freshman Leland Perkins ran 36:31.86.

"All six of our young men were competing in their first season of collegiate cross country," Vicker said. "Competing at the collegiate level is a big difference from high school, and it takes some time to get adjusted. Our men trusted in their training and ran their best races in the final two weeks of the season, which is our goal. They spent six months working toward this championship race, so I am happy for them to see them all run so well here. I am excited to see how much improvement we can make next year with a full year of training under our belts."