KOKOMO, Ind. — As a freshman, Brittany Sloan missed qualifying for the NAIA national cross country meet by one place. Standing at the finish line of the conference meet, she vowed that next year, she would be one of those chosen for the finals.
After a year of training, Sloan, an Indiana University Kokomo athlete, reached her goal, placing sixth of 78 women at the River States Conference meet November 5 at West Virginia Tech. She will be among 300 women competing in the NAIA meet November 19 at North Farm Cross Country Course, Elsah, Illinois.
“My finish last year made me want to work harder, and not have the same feeling of missing by one spot again,” she said. “It would have been easier to be 10 spots back than missing by one. I’m pretty excited, and I’m not sure I’m going to believe I’m going until I actually get there.”
Coach Jason VanAlstine noted that Sloan, from Wabash, has been focused on nationals all season, timing her season to peak at the conference meet in West Virginia. She ran the 5K course in 20:16 – 40 seconds faster than when she won the Golden Bear Classic on the same course in September. In addition, she was named to the All-Conference first team, and was conference runner of the week September 26.
Her success is a victory for her team, he added, after a season with about half of the athletes injured.
“It was one of those things where we knew if she ran her meet, she should make it to nationals,” he said. “We’re still so new as a program, it’s hard to get to a point where we make it to nationals as a team. We’re taking steps in that direction. In a way, this represents the hard work everyone did. They were all cheering for her, even while running their own meet. It was the biggest thing our team could do, for Brittany to make it.”
The women’s team and men’s team each placed seventh in the conference meet.
Sloan, 19, noted that several of her teammates plan to cheer her on at the national meet near St. Louis.
She began planning for the season after the conference meet in 2015, with an easy spring schedule, amping up her miles during the summer.
“In high school, I ran track in the spring,” the Northfield High School graduate said. “Last spring I only ran one 5K race. I didn’t do a bunch of killer workouts. Pushing the miles again in the summer really helped me build the base training for this season.”
Preparing for nationals, she’s keeping on her regular training schedule, with a harder schedule the week of November 7, followed by a lighter schedule the week of the meet to allow for rest.
Sloan enjoys cross country because it is both a team and individual sport.
“I like that a lot of your success depends on yourself, but I enjoy having the support of teammates,” she said. “Being part of the team made my transition from high school to college easier, and gave me a community to be part of as a new student.”
She’s been more involved in campus and community events because she’s part of the team.
“Being part of cross country has given me a better college experience,” Sloan said. “We do a lot of community service and campus activities together. You always have someone to go with. I don’t know that I would have done as much on my own as I have as part of the team.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.