CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Taylor women’s cross country team finished third-of-35 teams at the 41st-Annual NAIA National Championships at the Seminole Valley Cross Country Course in Cedar Rapids, IA. The TU women’s program tied its highest-ever national finish in school history, as the women took third place in 2018 as well.
The chilly morning and muddy course had little impact on the Purple and Gold, as Taylor tallied a total of 217 points. St. Francis (Ill.) took the team championship with 111 points followed by College of Idaho in second place with 146. The Trojans ran a combined team time of 93:43.
“First and foremost all the glory goes to God,” commented head coach Quinn White. “Today was another special day for the Maddawgs. They persevered through so many things and most recently injuries to three of them. We honestly did not know how we would finish, but we were not about to let our guard down.”
Taylor had two women repeat as NAIA Cross Country All-Americans, as Livy Schroder and Sarah Harden finished inside the top-40. Harden claimed All-American honors for the fourth season in a row, collecting the esteemed award all four years of her collegiate career. Harden is the only four-time All-American in Taylor women’s cross country history. Schroder joins Alex Berends (2018, 2014) and Lolly York (2005, 2006) as the third two-time NAIA All-American in program history.
Livy Schroder was Taylor’s top finisher of the day, claiming an impressive 10th-place finish with a time of 18:09.39. The senior improved upon her 26th place finish from 2019 and recorded her second-best time of the season.
Sarah Harden finished five seconds behind Schroder. The two seniors worked together the entirety of the race, pushing and encouraging each other to finish well. Harden, clocked a time of 18:14.42 and crossed the line in 16th place.
Freshman Ahna VanderWall competed in her first national championship meet and raced lights-out. VanderWall recorded a TU career-best time of 19:00.19 and finished in 79th place.
Close behind VanderWall was Giovanna Domene. Domene finished with an outstanding kick, passing opponents along the final stretch of the race. The junior claimed a time of 19:03.15 and ended 86th place overall.
TU’s fifth and final scoring runner was freshman Mollie Gamble. In her NAIA Nationals debut, Gamble raced to a time of 19:15.66. The freshman made a crucial move in the second half of the race, helping TU move up and ending in 109th place.
Katelynn Hanback closed out her phenomenal senior season clocking a time of 19:23.57 in her first-ever NAIA National Championship meet. Hanback ended in 124th place overall.
Rounding out the lineup for the Purple and Gold was Corinne O’Leary. The junior logged a time of 19:25.46 and claimed 130th-place for her third showing at the national championships.
“We are so blessed to have student-athletes that are willing to sacrifice so much, yet keep things in perspective. I am so proud of these young ladies,” White added.
Taylor has now finished third, sixth, third, fifth, 19th, 11th, 10th, and 10th over the past eight seasons at NAIA Nationals and a total of 13 overall team showings in program history.
The third-place women’s cross country team and the first-place men’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.
“We are equally as excited, honored, and humbled to win the combined team title,” stated White. “It is such a tribute to the culture of our program to be awarded with this combined title.”
The 2020-2021 squad closed its season with an incredible overall record of 97-4.