(EVANSVILLE, Ind.) – Two of the best seasons by any team in the history of Walsh University will end tomorrow as both Cavalier cross country teams race in the national championships. For Head Coach Rob Mizicko, he wouldn't have it any other way.
For the women's team ranked No. 10 in the country, it will be the first national championship appearance as team since 1982 when the Cavs qualified during the first season in program history. For the men's team ranked No. 14 in the nation, it's the second trip in three years to the grandest stage.
The women's team have had its best season ever and haven't finished worse than fourth all season with three first-place finishes with wins in the Ric Sayre Invitational, Notre Dame's National Catholic Meet, and the All-Ohio Championships at Cedarville.
In addition to that, the Cavs finished fourth in a loaded conference crossover at Lewis that featured 34 teams. Two weeks after that, they finished second in the G-MAC Championships. After another two-week layoff, Walsh ended the regular season with a third place finish in the regional championships to automatically qualify for the national championships.
The entire roster is a talented bunch, but the runner who has made the biggest impact has unquestionably been five-time All-American Sarah Berger. In her first full season in the sport, she has finished no worse than second in any race this year regardless of division. This included a first place finish at the All-Ohio Championships with Division I opponents, the G-MAC Championships, and Midwest Regional Championships.
Of course, you need more than one runner to place in the team standings. In addition to Berger are Andra Lehotay, Brianna Coy, Chelsea Johnson, Tori Reeves, Alexa Leppelmeier, and Maggie Kroll. All have helped the Cavs place impressively well in each race this season. In the regionals, it was Lehotay, Coy, Johnson, and Reeves that combined to give Walsh the score of 105.
The men's team has also made history this year with the first team conference championship by any sport at Walsh since joining the NCAA six years ago. The Cavs did so narrowly by one point over Malone four weeks ago at Trevecca.
In addition to that, they also finished first in the Ric Sayre Invitational at home. The Cavs followed that with two second place finishes in the National Catholic Meet and the All-Ohio Championships. Their worst finish of the season wasn't bad at all as Walsh came in seventh out of 31 teams in Lewis' conference crossover.
Going into the Midwest Regional Championships ranked No. 19 in the nation, the Cavs narrowly missed an automatic bid with a fourth place finish out of 28 teams. Walsh officially got the good news the season would last one more race last Monday and the team jumped up five spots in the national polls later that week.
The team has been led by Jacob Kernell, Steven Kapes, Justin Maroni, Noah Murray, Spencer Wirick, Jacob Turner, and Jacob Caniford. Kernell led the team at regionals with a third place finish. Kapes finished 14th.
No matter what happens on Saturday, there much to look forward to in the cross country and track & field programs. The men's team will lose just one person in Maroni, but everyone else returns for what should be another great season. It will be the last race for Berger, Johnson, Reeves, and Kroll, but with the others returning the program is in solid shape.