KOKOMO, Ind. Two Indiana University Kokomo athletes made program history in qualifying for the NAIA cross country championships.
Senior Brittany Sloan is the first Cougar cross country runner to earn a place in the finals three years in a row, while Lexi Jackson is the first freshman to compete in the championship.
Making it to nationals three of my four years means a lot, and it’s a huge accomplishment to end my career,” said Sloan (Andrews/Northfield HS), an exercise science major. “My goal is just to run, and try to run my best time.
Jackson (Walton/Lewis Cass HS) appreciates the opportunity, calling the conference meet where she qualified “the most intense race I ever ran.” Her 11thplace finish garnered her the final spot for the River States Conference (RSC).
I was right on the bubble, and I knew it was going to be a close race,” she said. “It’s a really big accomplishment to represent IU Kokomo and our team at the nationals.
They earned their places in the championship meet by placing at the conference meeting in Owensboro, Kentucky. They are among six teams and 93 individuals competing in the meet, set for 10:30 a.m. CST at the Seminole Valley Cross Country Course, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The IU women’s team placed fourth, its best-ever finish at the conference meet.
Sloan completed the 5K course with a time of 18:56, for fifth place, and first team all-conference honors. While setting a personal record for herself, she also set a new IU Kokomo record, as the second runner to ever go under the 19-minute mark.
Jackson also set a personal record, finishing in a time of 19:30, and gaining second team all-conference recognition.
The pair trained together most of the season, and say they encouraged each other to be better.
I really looked up to Brittany all season,” Jackson said. “Having a teammate who has been there before as my guide pushed me in my workouts.
Sloan is excited to have a teammate training with her during the two weeks between the conference and national meets, noting that one other time, she had to train alone. She worked harder with someone else to motivate her.
At conference, I was excited to find out I made it to nationals, but I was worried about Lexi,” she said. “I knew she was right on the edge. As soon as I finished, I was asking where she finished. I was more worried about her than myself. Training together does that for you.
Coach Jason VanAlstine said the men’s and women’s cross country team members stepped up their game for the 2018 season, especially Jackson and Sloan.
Brittany came in after the first race running better even than in the past,” he said. “It was clear from the beginning that a place at nationals was hers to lose. She was one of the best runners in the conference. With how Lexi started her season, it was evident early on she would be in the pack competing for a place as well.
Both runners are quick to give credit to VanAlstine and assistant coach Josh Colvin, as well as their teammates, for their success.
It’s been a really fun season,” said Jackson. “We all push each other, and we’re close. I don’t think we would have made it this far without our teammates and coaches.
For more information and updates go to iukcougars.com
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.