by Mahlon Steepleton
Sports, originally published Dec. 6, 2018
For Mount Mercy University, hosting the NAIA Cross-Country Nationals meet for Mount Mercy was historic, but that wasn’t all that was historic about the day. Senior runner James Lindstrom (Apple Valley, Calif.) finished sixth overall out of a field of 330 runners, in the men’s 8k race.
The race was held on Nov. 16 on a cold, windy Friday at Seminole Valley Park.
Lindstrom became the Mustangs’ first cross-country All-American and finished with an incredible time of 24:39. He broke the school record mark by a minute and fifteen seconds. That record was set by Lindstrom’s former teammate and friend Evan Bowman in 2015, at the NAIA Seminole Valley Stampede. Lindstrom also broke his former personal record by over a minute and 30 seconds.
“It was a surreal experience having my dad be there and watch me succeed, and it was an emotional day for me,” Lindstrom said. “I loved that all my friends and coaches were cheering me on and the energy from the crowd helped me get through a tough race.”
Colin De Young of Cornerstone (Mich.) set a new course record (24.12), while going on to win the individual title, in the men’s 8k race. The Mount Mercy men’s team posted its highest finish at a national championship, placing 26th out of 36 teams, with 593 points. Oklahoma City claimed their fourth overall team championship with 116 points. Indiana Wesleyan was the runner-up with a total of 143 points, followed by St. Francis (Ill.) with 162 points.
Helping the Mustangs to a fantastic finish were Lindstrom, Colton Forster (57th/25:31), Aaron Golding (149th/26:25), Michael Marshall (172nd/26:39), Cameron Steffens (209th/27:14), Sayed Opeyany (226th/27:54), and rounding out the top 7 was Jacob Blackmon with a place/time of (230th/28:24).
On the MMU women’s side, Vanessa Cortes and Alexa Zamora were top-100 finishers in the women’s 5k race. Cortes finished with a time of 18:31, which was good for a 62nd place finish out of 341 competitors, and a personal record as well. Zamora finished in 87th place with a time of 18:49.
She was followed by McKenna Johnson (144th/19:26), Andrea Ertz (147th/19:29), Emily Erickson (157th/19:39), Kelsi Huhndorf (199th/20:18), and rounding out the top 7 was Samantha Croghan with a place/time of (217th/20:39).
Anne Shields of Point Park (Pa.) won the individual title, with a time of 17:16. Only 9 total points separated the top three team finishers. Oregon Tech earned its first ever national championship in the school’s history with a total of 125 points. Madonna (Mich.) was the runner-up with (132), followed by third place finisher Taylor (Ind.) with a total of 134 points.
Lindstrom just wanted to go out and have a successful race.
“I treated it like was any other race, and tried not to overthink it,” Lindstrom said.
Assistant Coach Tad Hulst said he was proud and happy that Lindstrom had his best cross-country race as a Mustang. “It was a blast to watch James race with confidence and really show what he’s made of, not just to his team, but to the nation, Hulst said. “James has put in the work and it was awesome to see it all come together at the right time, in front of the home crowd. You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Hulst was excited to host the national meet.
“The atmosphere was so much fun,” Hulst said. “We had a large Mount Mercy contingent out there cheering, have some of our team out tailgating in the morning before the meet and painted upin the cold was awesome. It was very loud, and intense party. The way cross-country nationals is supposed to be.”
He was also impressed of how the men’s and women’s teams ran.
“The team took advantage of being athome and made it a historical day,” Hulst said. “The women tied the best finishin team history, and the men had their best finish in team history. Plus, it was an added and wonderful bonus that we had the program’s first cross-country All-American. It was the perfect day and it was a day to use to continue to build for more. We won’t rest on it, but use it to continue to press forward as a program.”
For Linstrom, it was a sweet way to finish his college cross-country career.
“It was a great way to end my cross-countrycareer, since it was my last race,” he said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without my coaches and teammates. I am really excited to see what we all can doon the track together.”
Mount Mercy again will host at the Seminole Valley Park course again for the 2020 NAIA Cross Country National Championships.