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Cougar runners set sights on national championship

November 15, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. — Two runners with previous national experience will represent Indiana University Kokomo in the NAIA national cross country championship meet Saturday, November 18.

Taryn Thor, Kokomo; and Brittany Sloan, Wabash, will be among nearly 300 women competing at the championships at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Washington. 

For Thor, a senior, it’s the culmination of her best season ever — and her first not plagued by injury. When she qualified for nationals in 2015, she’d trained by biking during the summer because of injury.

“I was able to train and run all summer, and the whole season, without interruptions,” she said. “With qualifying for nationals, it’s exciting to extend my last cross country season two extra weeks. You have to treat conference as your last race, because you don’t know if you’ll get those last two weeks between conference and nationals.”

Sloan, a junior, was the only Cougar running at nationals in 2016, and while she has teammates who traveled along to support her, she appreciates having someone else competing.

“It will be nice having someone to talk to who has been through the experience before,” she said. “Qualifying means I worked hard and I had support to get there.”

Both are excited to have a veteran teammate competing.

“I was pretty high-strung the first time I went, because I was so nervous,” said Thor. “Now I have somebody with me who also knows what it’s like.”

Thor qualified for nationals by placing third of 96 women in the River States Conference (RSC) meet, in a time of 19 minutes. Sloan was sixth, with a time of 19:44, at the competition, at Asbury University, Wilmore, Kentucky.

IU Kokomo’s women’s team was 5th of 12 teams, while the men placed 8th of 12.

Both runners consistently placed in meets throughout the season, and earned first team all conference honors. Thor also was RSC runner of the week twice.

Coach Jason VanAlstine noted it is difficult to coach between conference and nationals, because most runners try to peak in time to qualify for the championships.

“There is a build up all season of getting to that conference meet, and knowing what you have to do, and not knowing if you will be able to do it,” he said. “Then your teammates aren’t practicing anymore, and you have to figure out what are you going to be able to do at this big meet when you have so much competition.”

Thor and Sloan meet for workouts, and run on their own, and are focusing on getting plenty of rest and proper nutrition, to be ready for Saturday’s competition. 

Sloan is excited to travel by airplane for the first time since she was a toddler, and the two runners and their coach look forward to visiting the state of Washington,, a part of the country none of them have been to.

Both student-athletes plan to participate on the newly-formed IU Kokomo track team, which will allow the cross country team to compete in the spring season.

As Thor completes her collegiate cross country career, she’s planning to continue into a physical therapy program after graduating in May. Overall, she is pleased with her success.

“I feel like I put my all into this sport, so I’m not disappointed in anything I’ve done.”

 Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 11/15/2017