UPLAND, Ind. – The No. 4 Taylor men’s cross country team is set to compete at the NAIA National Championships, as it takes the course with 35 other teams at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course in Vancouver, Washington on Friday, November 19.
The Purple and Gold enter the race ranked No. 4, after securing an automatic bid to the national championships following a first-place finish at the Crossroads League Championships on November 6.
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Last season, the Taylor men ended as the 2020 NAIA National Champions, claiming Taylor’s first-ever national championship in school history. In 2019, TU finished as the NAIA National runner-up. Prior to the Trojans’ historic seasons in 2020 and 2019, TU recorded five-straight top-20 national finishes, ending 18th, 19th, 15th, 17th and 16th over that time.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to race,” stated head coach Quinn White. “We expect it to be a very competitive field, and we are excited for the challenge. The men have been training very well, and they are ready to compete. This will be another exciting national race. There are so many great teams that can make a run for the title and secure a spot on the podium. Our goal is to be present, run with conviction, and be competitive throughout the whole race.”
The lineup for the Trojans on Friday will be Daniel Gerber, Derek Van Prooyen, Alex Helmuth, Connor White, Josh Harden, Ben Eiffert and Nathan Streitmatter. Gerber, Van Prooyen, Helmuth and White are no strangers to the national stage, as the four seniors combine for 16 NAIA Cross Country National appearances. Meanwhile, Harden, Eiffert and Streitmatter are prepared to make their nationals debut.
The squad will look to bring home All-American honors, as the top-40 finishers will earn the award. Gerber, a two-time cross country All-American, will seek his third award after finishing 16th in 2020 and seventh in 2019. Helmuth and Van Prooyen will look to collect their second award on Friday. In 2020, Helmuth ended with an impressive fifth-place finish and Van Prooyen claimed 24th-place overall. The other four men will also seek top-40 finishes to claim All-American honors.
The Trojans will battle against a tough 36-team field, as No. 1 St. Francis (Ill.) enters the championships ranked No. 1. Other competitive threats include No. 2 Saint Mary, No. 3 Milligan, No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan and No. 6 Oklahoma City. Taylor’s only NAIA losses this year come from St. Francis (Ill.) and Indiana Wesleyan. However, TU outran St. Francis at the Bullock Invite on September 17 and beat Indiana Wesleyan at the Crossroads League Championships on November 6.
The fourth-ranked Trojans enter into the final race of the 2021 campaign with a regular season record of 71-24. The TU men have been ranked as a top-five team inside the NAIA Coaches’ Top-25 poll all season.
No. 4 Taylor will take the course at 1:30 pm (ET) on Friday.