Saturday, Nov. 19 marked the day that three Lions gave it their all at the biggest race of the year in Vancouver, Washington. It was at the 2011 NAIA Cross Country Championships on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site that they embarked on what wouldn’t be their last 5K of the season.
Seniors Kimberly Jennings and Chelsea VanCott, accompanied by freshman Cameron Barela, had been working their hardest all season to get to this point on a chilly November morning. In an event with over 300 runners, each Lion respectively placed in each of their races.
Jennings finished in 47th-place with a time of 18:52 on her 5K run. Two weekends before Nationals, she was overcoming illness the morning of her race. Despite not feeling her best, Jennings clocked in a time of 18:11, which placed her into the Nationals pool. Having already attending Nationals a previous season with another school, Jennings knew what to expect.
“I just want to give it everything I have and let God determine where that is. I want to be who I was created to be and God has given me the ability to run,” Jennings said.
VanCott came in just behind her fellow runner Jennings in 70th-place with a time of 19:10 in the 5K run. VanCott has been a faithful four-year Lion competing in her first Nationals race. Over the years, she has learned how to deal with obstacles leading up to the GSAC Championship race that allowed her to qualify for Nationals.
“I’ve had to overcome my fear of the Fresno course more than anything. I’m glad to say that the Lord had his timing for my great race this year at Conference Fresno,” VanCott said.
VanCott has attended Nationals every previous year for track but never for cross country until this year. Fresno had been her weakness the previous three seasons.
“I just stopped trying to take the race into my own hands, like I had in past years, and just gave it all to God, knowing he would take me anywhere he knew I needed to go for my next step,” VanCott said.
Barela was the only freshman on the Lions cross country team to make it to the 2011 Cross Country Nationals this year. As an All-GSAC runner among the men’s team, Barela finished in 39th-place out of 312 runners with a time of 25:04, just five seconds off of his personal best record.
Barela’s time was the fastest of any VU runner that has ever competed on the Vancouver course, where the NAIA Championships have been held for the past three years. Barela showed his dedication and will power when he proved that freshmen can indeed make it to Nationals as well, if they put enough effort into it.
“[Before my races] I ask God to go for a run with me and to be there with me. Just wanting to be up at the front of the pack [competing] is what motivates me to push myself harder and want to be a top runner,” Barela said.
All three competitors succeeded in gaining new personal records this season. For VanCott and Jennings, their collegiate cross country days are over since season has ended, but there is still a chance for them to conquer Nationals for track. Barela, on the other hand, has a lot to look forward to if the seasons ahead of him improve.