NATIONAL CHAMPS: Women’s cross country team earns 2015 title
The 2015 LCC women’s cross country team will go in the record books as the first team in school history to bring home the NJCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country National Championship.
The Lady Harriers outpaced top-ranked host Iowa Central CC Nov. 14 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, winning LCC’s first national title since earning a Division II crown back in 1999.
“It was a little hard to believe at first,” said LCC freshman Taylor Thrush. “None of us were really confident in how we raced. It was an amazing feeling.”
LCC scored 92 points in the 42-team season finale, beating out Iowa Central by 43 and third-place Central Arizona College by 101.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling,” LCC Head Coach Jim Robinson said. “We had talked a couple weeks before our regional race … We still had a big challenge before us in going into the number one ranked team’s backyard on a course they were familiar with.”
Robinson’s strategy of competing in top-flight competitions, coupled with his runners’ previous high school championship experience, turned out to be the perfect combination.
“I think a lot of us can compare this to the Spartan Invite (earlier this season),” Thrush said. “The races didn’t prepare us as much as the training and team effort. It was because we were family that we were able to do this.”
Reigning NJCAA Region XII champion and LCC freshman Kaitlyn Beyer continued her winning form, finishing 10th in the field of 305 runners in 18:43.
2014 NJCAA Region XII champion Kayla Kraft once again shined at the right time, finishing 16th in 19:06. No LCC runner finished lower than 41st.
“Our young women all year have shown a lot of resolve,” Robinson said. “We talked about this possibility of winning a national championship at the beginning of the year. We didn’t talk about it a lot because there are some things you can’t control.”
Kraft said she knew LCC was in control just over halfway through the 5K race.
“I felt it at about the two-mile marker,” Kraft said. “The only people in front of me were two Iowa (Central) girls. I knew we had won it.”
The ultimate confirmation of LCC’s history-making performance was from someone who would be least likely to admit defeat.
“I was running from the one-mile mark to the two-mile mark with one of the guys and I said ‘I think we got this,’” Robinson said. “A voice from behind said, ‘Yeah, you’ve won it.’ I turned around and it was the head coach of Iowa Central CC.”
Robinson admitted that while his first national title as head coach at LCC is very exciting, his ultimate goal has been happening all year long.
“I like just seeing people improve and run fast,” Robinson said. “Obviously it’s a very good feeling (to win the title), but the real joy is working with the young people and seeing them grow as athletes, students (and) being able to watch them accomplish this for themselves and to have something to tell their kids and grandkids.”
Thrush admitted being a national champion will take some getting used to.
“I feel weird bragging about it to people,” she said. “But it’s a big deal and I am proud to be part of a team that can accomplish something like that.”