Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney cross country teams placed first (women) and fourth (men) at the 2021 MIAA Championships Saturday at Kearney Country Club.
This was just the second time since 1990 UNK and KCC hast hosted a conference championship meet.
The Loper women made sure it was a memorable day as they used a late kick to move from fifth place at the 5k mark to first by the 6k mark and the end of the race. UNK tallied 74 points to earn its first league title since winning the 1985 Central States Intercollegiate Conf. (CSIC) title. That meet consisted of just three teams.
“We thought there were five or and maybe even six teams capable of winning. A lot of us have talked and if this race was run six different times you might have five or different outcomes,” said UNK head coach Brady Bonsall. “Especially on the women’s side there’s a flow to this course that we probably didn’t have correct the two times we hosted regionals. We figured that out, talked about it and when things start playing out the way you hoped, when they start playing out during the race, you can just see the confidence grow.”
A very veteran UNK team came into the meet ranked seventh in the Central Region and receiving votes for the Top 25. The Lopers got past Central Missouri (88 points), three-time defending MIAA champion and No. 25 Pittsburg State (95) and Northwest Missouri State (108).
“We have three super seniors and during the race all had an opportunity to … whether it be injury, side stich and so on … they could’ve pulled back. They could’ve gone in the tank honestly,” said Bonsall. “Everyone one of them sucked it up and was beating people at the end. So, we’re super proud of Maddie, Destiny and Zoe.”
The 24th-ranked Kearney men tallied 98 points to trail a strong field that consisted of No. 6 Pitt (44), No. 15 Missouri Southern (66) and No. 26 Northwest (94). The Lopers, running an 8k, came in ahead of seven others including three regionally-ranked squads.
“I told someone before the race we could run great and get fourth. The race got rough in the middle and we had some guys struggling but that kind of mimics what’ll happen at the regional meet when it’s a 10k,” said Bonsall. “The result wasn’t all that bad and now we just have to bounce back and be good two weeks from now.”
The women had all five of its scorers in the top 23 with the men having five in the top 29. Earning first-team All-MIAA honors for a top 10 finish was Kearney redshirt freshman Grace Bonsall (5th/22:38.65), Iowa super senior Maddie Bach (9th/22:51.51) and Iowa redshirt freshman Myles Bach (5th/24:50.04).
Earning honorable mention all-league honors (places 11-20) were McCool Junction redshirt junior Luke Stuckey (17th/25:23.18) and Imperial super senior Destiny Reinke (16th/23:09.09). Reinke earns her third All-MIAA honor with Bach tabbed for the second time.
Also scoring for the women were Comstock super senior Zoe Ritz (21st/23:22.14) and Hooper redshirt freshman Elizabeth Polk (23rd/23:24.20). On the men’s side, Juniata redshirt junior Justin Vrooman was 21st (25:34.06), Ainsworth redshirt sophomore Ben Arens came in 26th (26:01.56) and Omaha redshirt freshman Nick Abdalla was 29th (26:04.86) in his first official race as a Loper.
MSSU went 1-2 on the men’s side in Ryan Riddle (24:28.42) and JP Rutledge (24:32.47). The women’s medalist was Emporia State’s Jenna Ramsey (21:50.54). All of these teams will run at the NCAA Central Regional meet Nov. 6 in Joplin, Mo.