GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Lauren Jimison shattered her teammate's course record, winning the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge by a full minute with a course-record 16:53.88 to lead the NAIA's top-ranked Azusa Pacific to the women's team title, as well.
The course record was set three years ago by Jacky Kipwambok, who ran a 16:57 in 2008 and was the Cougars' fifth finisher this time around with a 19:13. Jimison's performance ranks as the second-fastest in Azusa Pacific history.
Junior Poppy Lawman returned to the lineup after sitting out the last race due to illness, and she claimed second behind Jimison with a time of 17:56.11. Freshman Kristie Sikma set a personal-best in her hometown, as the Grand Rapids native who grew up about 10 miles from Saturday’s course was Azusa Pacific's third finisher and took eighth overall with a time of 18:18.46 as family and friends looked on. Sikma was one of four Cougars to finish in the top 10, with junior Sarah Higgens placing 10th overall in 18:19.95.
Sophomore Diandra Carstensen ran her first sub-20 minute race this year, turning in a 19:46.76, and freshman Elle Farrar rounded out the Azusa Pacific contingent in less than 20 minutes, as well, claiming 75th overall with a 19:51.35 effort. The Cougars’ closest competition in the race came from the NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), which finished 11 points behind Azusa Pacific but only had one runner finish ahead of any of the Cougars’ top four.
“We’ve been really consistent throughout the season, and the next meet (GSAC) we race will be on a faster course,” Cougar cross country head coach Preston Grey said. “It will also be the first time we’ve run our entire top five in six weeks, so I think the team will be fired up to all finally race together. Missing an athlete in each of the last two meets will ultimately benefit us and make us a better team.”
In the men's race, Azusa Pacific claimed 12th place out of 30 teams, led by sophomore Wade Meddles' third-place overall finish with a time of 24:51.23. Meddles has crossed the line in under 25 minutes in all four races so far this season. Freshman Peter Buscheck ran a 26:39.31, his second-fastest this year, to take 70th place overall as the second Cougar across the finish line.
Sophomore Zach Ginn was the third Azusa Pacific finisher, averaging 5:24 per mile for a 26:51.11 effort, while freshmen Devin Pierce (27:39.51) and Christian Sanchez (27:58.51) rounded out the Cougars’ top five. Junior Matt Hoekstra was just off the 28-minute mark, finishing in 28:04.30, while freshman Josiah Dawes completed his second race of the season in 28:14.68.
“We’re competing well, and we’re just a young team,” Grey said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to be the team we want to be, but this is a group that’s ready to do the work. Some of the guys are running in tough spots, so we’ve just got to be patient with it and put our work in.”
Both Cougar teams return to action for the Golden State Athletic Conference championship, held Saturday, Nov. 5, at Woodward Park in Fresno, Calif. Azusa Pacific athletes have swept the men’s and women’s individual crowns at the GSAC meet in each of the past four seasons, and both teams placed second at last year’s conference championship meet.