Emma Wilson wins NAIA National Cross County Title

Friday, April 16, 2021
Emma Wilson

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – It was a good day to be a Forester. Sophomore Emma Wilson ran away from her competition Friday morning at the 2020 NAIA Women’s Cross Country Nationals Championships to claim the individual title while the Forester men were the 2020 NAIA Cross Country National Runners-up.

As the clear favorite, Wilson left no doubt she’s the nation’s best by establishing a lead right out of the gate on her way to cruising to the finish line in 17:02.86 which proved over 35 seconds faster than her nearest competitor.

The Greencastle native entered the race with the fastest women’s collegiate 5K time nationally across all divisions. She is just the second Forester in school history to earn a national title in cross country.

“Emma ran really well out front,” said Coach Lauren Davenport Johnson. “We expected her to win the national title. She took care of business today and did just that.”

The All-American Wilson guided 7th-seeded Huntington to a 12th place finish as a team with 335 points for the program’s second highest finish at nationals. Saige Norris was the next Forester to cross the line in 18:53.36 good for 67th place out of 326 runners.

Sydney Lambert, in her rookie debut, claimed 82nd place by finishing in 19:01.66. Olivia Von Gunten navigated the course in 19:40.17 for 157th place. Jessica Chojnacki was five spots back having clocked in at 19:42.59. Carmen Trier finished in 19:51.64 for the 185th spot. Ireland Dodson rounded out HU’s performances with a 270th place time of 21:05.69.

“Behind Emma in the team race, we had several ladies have pretty good days and a few who ran well but could have done better,” said Johnson. “Ultimately, looking at where our times put us with our seeding coming in, I thought at best we could be in the top ten. We ended up 12th but all things considered, that’s a really good day for our women’s team.”

Three other Crossroads League teams were represented on the big stage including Taylor (3rd), Indiana Wesleyan (5th) and Saint Francis (23rd).

On the men’s side, Huntington made program history with their second place finish. It will go down in the record books as HU’s highest finish. Adrien Gentie’s kick down the stretch was inspiring to earn him a third place finish out of 317 runners. The senior Frenchman clocked in at 24:29.47 and spent the last half of the race moving up over ten spots.

“The men ran for each other today,” said Johnson. “From start to finish, they competed really well. They were patient early as we planned. I was encouraged by how well they moved up and were competitive all the way through the race.

“Although we fell short of our ultimate goal of winning a national title, Taylor ran an amazing race - they had all five of their scoring runners in the top 25. We could not have done anything to match that. They were the best team in the nation today and we ran the best race we could have so we have nothing to hang our heads about.”

Gentie was one of four Foresters to earn All-American honors. Kent Yoder recorded a top ten finish with his 9th place finish in 24:50.19. Haile Stutzman wasn’t far back having finished in 24:52.03 for the 12th spot. Elijah Chesterman ran to 26th place in 25:11.76 as HU’s fourth All-American of the day.

“We had four All-Americans which is the best the program has ever had with Adrien leading the way,” said Johnson. “Kent running top ten to earn his first individual All-American honor was key for us.

“Elijah and Haile fought really hard at the end when they were hurting to finish really well. Just like Kent, it was Haile’s first individual All-American honor.”

Aaron Hendryx posted a time of 25:52.79 for 72nd place while Reece Gibson (94th, 26:10.98) and Austin Liepe (106th, 26:19.05) rounded out Huntington’s times.

The Crossroads League was well represented in the men’s 8K with Taylor claiming the team title. Other league schools to compete included Indiana Wesleyan (7th), Goshen (22nd) and Spring Arbor (26th).

As a program, HU finished sixth nationally as a combined team.