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Cross country runners making lasting impact

The Mount Vernon Nazarene University cross country teams are relying on their seven seniors to set the pace for this season. On the ladies side, the seniors are Kristen Cook, Rachel Gerber, and MaKenzie McKirgan. Seniors on the Men’s side include Brennan Crawford, Jacob Lofton, Matt McKenzie and Noah Menuez.

The teams will look upon the leadership and experience of these seniors for a great season, which started Aug. 31 at Kenyon College, followed by a meet at Indiana Wesleyan on Sept. 7.

Both teams have major goals for this season, according to McKirgan, whose goals include making nationals and placing high in the Crossroads League.

“Last year the women barely missed the national stage; so this season, we definitely have our eyes on making it,” McKirgan said.

The seniors are a part of a lady’s team that is receiving votes in the first NAIA Cross Country poll. Last season at the Crossroads League meet, hosted by Marion University, the women’s team placed fourth overall.

McKirgan is a two-time national qualifier in the marathon, plus she was 15th at the Crossroads League Meet.

Gerber is looking forward to building off a successful track season to lead into this cross country season.

“This previous track season, I just barely missed making nationals, so there is a drive to do my best to get there this year,” Gerber said. “The best part of this season is knowing we have a very strong team that can get us to nationals.”

Cook, who has been a huge contributor for the women’s side in her three years, is looking forward to the team aspect.

“In my three years on the team, the team has been the best part, and I am looking forward to bonding with the new runners,” Cook said.

The men have strong goals coming up for this season, and one of them is placing high up in the

Crossroads League after the highest finish in school history last year.

One of the big contributors this season is Brennan Crawford, who is

a two-time national qualifier in the Marathon. He also is the highest returner for the team as he placed 18th overall at the Crossroads League Championships.

Crawford is looking forward to the challenge of being a senior leader.

“With this being my senior year, I will have the challenge to lead the lower classmen,” Crawford said.

Another huge piece to this senior class is Jacob Lofton, who will look to stay healthy as injuries have caused some missed meets the past three years. He will look to his experience to have a great season.

“I have been around this team as a leader for the last three years, so the experience I have is critical for a successful season for me,” Lofton said.

The last senior that has also been a strong contributor the last three years is Noah Menuez who enters this season as the second-highest returner after placing 20th at the Crossroads League Championships. Menuez is looking forward to working with his teammates to try to make a run at nationals.

“I am looking forward to working with my teammates to see how we are able to place and what we are capable of, “Menuez said.

Coach Chip Wilson knows this group of seniors is a special group on and off the course.

“These seniors came in three years ago and jumped right in with really good success, “Wilson said. “I am looking forward to their leadership on the course but also what they do in the classroom and on campus.”

With a solid group of seniors, the team will be looking to make a splash in the Crossroads League and the national stage.

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