Cross Country Has an Amazing Trip at Nationals

cross country team with NAIA flag

During their season, the cross-country team did phenomenally well, and a few were able to compete at Nationals this year. We reached out to the head coach, Anthony Drealan, to find out how they competed and some of the amazing activities they participated in. They made quite a few memories that they will never forget.

According to Coach Drealan, this year’s national competition was held at the Fort Vancouver Historical Site. “It’s not the most difficult course we’ve run but it’s reasonably challenging as there are 2 hills that are run repeatedly, and there was some significant rain the day before the championships which softened up the course drastically,” Coach Drealan said. Despite the muddy course, two athletes rose above the rest as the cross-country team’s highest-ranking runners. Taylor Myers was the highest ranking on the men’s side. He ranked 175th out of 333 runners. Jacia Christiansen was the only female runner to compete at nationals. She ranked 206th out of 340 runners.

Coach Drealan was very proud of how his athletes competed this year regardless of their rankings. “The resulting performances were an average day for us, and of course the goal is to have our best performance of the year at the national championships. I don’t think there was any lacking effort, our athletes competed as hard as they could and pushed themselves to their limit.” He recognizes that for the team to grow and rank higher in the future, “there are some tweaks within training that [he needs] to adjust for the upcoming year and [they] also can make some adjustments to our strategy at the national championships. [He] was exceptionally proud of our team for their whole year and their effort at the nationals championships.”

They also made amazing memories as well throughout their time on the trip. They were able to visit “including the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls, Astoria Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, and the Nike World Headquarters, including the track within the trees,” said Coach Drealan. Myers’ favorite memory was “being able to see the Nike Headquarters campus in Oregon.” He said he enjoyed bonding with “the closest friends and best teammates,” when they “got lost running through Forest Park.”

For Christiansen, she appreciated when they “got to drive along the Columbia River Gorge, which was absolutely beautiful and filled with many waterfalls. [They] also went to the ocean the last day of the trip.” This national competition was Christiansen’s final competition. She has competed for 11 years and has loved running for Dakota State University. She claimed that because this was her last competition, it felt very special for her. “It wasn’t my best time, but considering the conditions, I feel really good about my effort and that’s what matters.” She agreed with Coach Drealan and said, “The course was much muddier than we had anticipated when we ran our pre-meet run the day before.” The women ran after the boys which added another difficulty along with the muddy terrain.

Compared to last year’s competition, “the course location and type of course was a significant difference. The 2020 national championship was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on an extremely flat and fast course as opposed to the more challenging course in Vancouver”, said Coach Drealan. As many teams across the nation, our Trojans had a postponed national competition. “The timing of the 2020 national championships was the most different aspect as well. Due to COVID, they postponed the 2020 championships to April of 2021. Our athletes who had qualified had an interesting preparation coming off indoor track and being amid outdoor track at the time,” said Coach Drealan. Christiansen appreciated a normal schedule for her last cross-country season, “It just feels more natural and it’s what all of our training has built up to.”

The cross-country team has high hopes for next year. Myers said, “I think that with a good track season this fall and good summer training, I would put myself in a good spot to improve my time and place even more at nationals.” Coach Drealan is also very excited for the next year and hopes to improve on both women and men’s side of competition. “I’m extremely motivated to help our women’s team win the NSAA XC (cross-country) Championships and qualify as a team to the national championships with our returners and incoming athletes. I’m also looking forward to helping our men significantly improve their team placing next year after the experience they gained this year.” As for Christiansen, because this is her last year she will be cheering on her former teammates. “I’m really rooting for their success. This team has become such a big part of my journey here at DSU, so it’ll be hard to let it go. I plan to make it to a couple of meets next year to see how everyone is doing and be their biggest cheerleader.”

Next year’s competition will be held in Jacksonville, Florida at the Apalachee Regional Park Cross Country Course. Coach Drealan is expecting to have fast times on that track that will earn a few athletes an All-American title. Tune in next year and support our cross-country team as they work hard at every competition. If you can not travel to their meets, there will be a live link available for those who want to cheer at home.