SHELBYVILLE, Ind. - The Bluffton University cross country team saw a long season of hard work come to fruition with the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships at Blue River State Park on a chilly Saturday, Oct. 27, capping the day with an individual champion and a runner-up finish as a women's team!
Junior Alexis Cash (Gaines, Mich./Lake Fenton) defended her title with a big move in the final 800 meters to win her second straight HCAC crown! Cash's time of 22:38.8 was 19 seconds faster than her previous school record time of 22:57, which was set at the 2017 HCAC Championship meet. Cash was also named the conference's Most Valuable Runner after the victory.
Sophomore Bailie Barrington (Waynesfield/Waynesfield-Goshen) continued her fantastic campaign with an eighth-place finish and All-HCAC honors with a time of 23:56.5. The Beavers placed three more on the Honorable Mention All-HCAC team as sophomore Kimberly Hetrick (Fremont/Ross) crossed in 16th, senior Jennie Matteson was 17th and junior Arie Cox (Ontario) took 19th in the race.
Senior Tami Groff (Versailles) battled her way to a 29th place finish with a season-best time of 25:39.9 despite a two-week derailment of training due to an illness, while freshman Hope Nixon (Jamestown/Jamestown-Monroe) rounded out the scoring seven for the Beavers.
Despite having five of the top 19 runners, the women's team fell by six points (55-61) to Manchester University which claimed the team title, but the second place run for the Beavers equaled the 2016 women for the best team finish in school history at a conference championship meet!
The men's team followed the women's race with their eight-kilometer championship stroll, led by a pair of Honorable Mention All-HCAC runners. Junior Dakota Frost (Hicksville) battled to a 16th place finish with a time of 27:16.3, while junior Jonah Eckert (Terre Haute, Ind./West Vigo) fought his way forward the entire race to finish in the 18th position with a time of 27:22.0.
The remainder of the Bluffton scoring five was junior Connor Gulick (St. Louisville/Utica) who placed 31st, Michael Lehman (West Liberty/West Liberty-Salem) in 61st, and senior Jacob Hill (Dayton/Wayne) in 66th. Freshman Austin Hernandez (Marion/Ridgedale) also dropped close to a full minute off of his personal-best time on Saturday with a clocking of 31:26.9, while senior Joshua Ehlers (Defiance/Tinora) placed 78th to round out the day for the Beavers.
The effort was good enough for a sixth-place team score, just edging out Anderson by three points (162-165), and ahead of Transylvania, Mount St. Joseph, and Defiance. Rose-Hulman won their fourth straight HCAC Championship on the men's side with their 45-86 victory over Hanover at the top of the standings.
The Beavers will return to the Blue River State Park in Shelbyville, Ind. on Saturday, Nov. 10, for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships. The women's race is set to start at 11 a.m. with the men's race to follow at 12:15 p.m.