IU Kokomo runners qualify for national championships
KOKOMO, Ind. — Taryn Thor was supposed to be Indiana University Kokomo’s cross country star in 2014.
Her high school times placed her among the top runners in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC), and team leader Javier Vasquez, the first campus athlete to qualify for an NAIA national championship, looked forward to having a teammate at nationals.
An injury early in the season sidelined Thor, who rode the team bus and watched competition, with her foot in a boot, hoping she would be able to return. Vasquez missed returning to the NAIA finals by one spot, and promised that in 2015, he would be back.
Both found redemption at Saturday’s KIAC conference meet, earning places in the 2015 national meet, set for November 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Coach Jason VanAlstine was proud of their performances and persistence even when it was hard.
“Going to nationals is something we’ve talked about for two years,” he said. “It’s been challenging, and we’ve had to be more patient than we wanted to be. For such a young program, for anyone to qualify is exciting. We are proud of their perseverance.”
Thor (Kokomo/Northwestern HS), who placed fifth in the women’s race, also won the Comeback Runner of the Year award. Vasquez (Frankfort/Frankfort HS) was fourth in the men’s race, hosted by University of Rio Grande, Ohio.
“It was exciting to be able to come back from my injury and qualify for nationals in my first year,” said Thor. “I definitely learned a lot about myself, and how much tougher I can be. I’m proud of where I am. I am just happy I’m healthy to run.”
Vasquez holds eight of the top 10 times for the IU Kokomo men’s team, and looks forward to adding another at nationals.
“I don’t want to make it too easy for my teammates to break my records after I graduate in May,” he said.
Freshman Brittany Sloan (Wabash/Northfield HS) placed sixth, just one place out of qualifying for nationals, and was first team all conference. The women’s team placed fifth of 10 teams, while the men were sixth of 11. Point Park University won both the men’s and women’s titles.
For more information about the cross country team, go to iukcougars.com. The team’s Facebook page is at IU Kokomo Cross Country. Find them on Twitter at @iukxcountry.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.