CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Taylor University men’s cross country team ended its historic season on Friday at the 65th-Annual NAIA National Championships in Cedar Rapids, IA, taking first place as a team for its best-ever finish at nationals and claiming Taylor University’s first team National Championship.
“First and foremost all the glory goes to God,” stated second-year head coach Quinn White. “He provided us with this opportunity, he put this team together and he provided these men with the gift to run. The men took this gift and used it to the best of their ability today. We are so thrilled and honored to win this for Him, for each other, for the TUXC alumni and for the University.”
The Taylor men were ranked third going in to the race, however the Trojans finished as the best team in the nation scoring a total of only 73 points and clocking the fastest-team time in program history with a school record time of 2:05.17. Five of TU’s seven runners set career-best times and one set a season-best time.
The Purple and Gold took the lead at mile-three and maintained their placement through the finish. Ending behind the Trojans was fellow Crossroads League team Huntington with 114 points. Milligan finished third with 127 points and Oklahoma City claimed fourth place with 131 points.
Alex Helmuth capped off his phenomenal junior season with a fifth-place finish overall. Helmuth’s time of 24:30.90 is the third-fastest 8k time in Taylor program history.
Josh Roth collected his second NAIA Cross Country All-American award claiming a career-best finish of 13th place. Roth ran a time of 24:53.15, a lifetime best and TU’s 10th-fastest mark in history.
Daniel Gerber also collected his second NAIA Cross Country All-American award. The senior finished in 16th place and recorded a season-best time of 24:56.72.
Luke Rovenstine ended in 17th place, just steps behind Gerber. Rovenstine clocked a lifetime-best finish of 24:57.67, beating his previous best-time by almost 30-seconds.
Junior Derek Van Prooyen competed in his best national race of his Taylor career. Van Prooyen rounded out Taylor’s scoring, ending in 24th place with a career-best time of 25:10.03.
Senior Sam Hardy made his national championship debut in Cedar Rapids, claiming 63rd-place and clocking a time of 25:49.39. Hardy ended his Taylor career with a new lifetime-best 8k time.
Connor White finished with a time of 25:50.33. The junior’s third NAIA Nationals race ended with his best-finish of 65th place.
The Trojans ended as the runner-up team in 2019. It was a team goal from the beginning of the 2020 season to take this year’s NAIA National Title.
“We put all of our eggs into the cross country basket,” said White. “Like many, we made so many sacrifices, and dealt with so many Covid situations. We ran through the indoor season, and have not focused on outdoor. However, tomorrow we change our focus to the outdoor track.”
The first-place men’s cross country team and the third-place women’s team finished first place overall in the NAIA as a combined program. This is the second time in TU cross country history both teams made it to the podium as a combined program. In 2019, the men’s and women’s cross country program finished runner-up in the combined standings, but were able to take the combined championship this year. The combined teams tallied a score of 290, cruising to first place over Oklahoma City with 377 points.
White commented, “We are equally as excited, honored, and humbled to win the combined team title. It is such a tribute to the culture of our program to be awarded with this combined title. In my opinion, today was a beautiful display of perseverance and focus. Again all glory to God!”
Quinn White has shown incredible coaching with only taking over the men’s program two years ago. White was honored with the 2020 NAIA Coach of the Year award following today’s performance.
Taylor closed its impressive 2020-2021 campaign at 91-5 overall, after going 55-5 through five regular season races.