The Shippensburg University men’s cross country team is in Missouri for the 2023 NCAA National Championships, and the Raiders will begin their 10K race at 12:15 p.m. EST Saturday.
Shippensburg is making its first NCAA National Championships appearance as a team in five years – marking the first nationals run for each member of the team save for graduate Hayden Hunt (Shippensburg, Pa./Shippensburg Area) – an individual qualifier for the 2021 NCAA Championships.
It is Shippensburg’s 22nd NCAA National Championships appearance in school history.
“It means a lot to make it to the national meet as a team,” sophomore Garrett Quinan said. “Being the next story in the SHIP XC legacy is encouraging, and it gives us hope to do it again next year. Finally reaching a goal that we had set for ourselves in years past is very fulfilling, and shows how strong of a mindset we have.”
Quinan continued: “The countless miles running together shows the comradery and diligence it takes as a team to reach the top. Being able to travel and race at the highest level with a group of my best friends is something I won’t take for granted, and will cherish for a long time.”
The team’s preparation over the last two weeks has not been drastically different than the preceding weeks. It’s built into the plan, and the Raiders have been making the necessary adjustments to be in the position for success on Saturday. Quinan alluded to the fact that the team’s consistent training and racing plans throughout the season has given it what it needs for one more go-around.
“Preparing for the national meet doesn’t take much more than what we’ve been doing all season,” Quinan said. “After regionals, the workout volume decreases, and the intensity increases slightly so that we aren’t shocking the body with anything it hasn’t felt before. The intensity allows us to still get some feel for those faster and harder paces. The last few days, the training and workouts have backed off significantly to get our bodies tapered and feeling fresh to race fast.”
Hunt echoed Quinan’s sentiments, describing how the Raiders have been motivated by the leadup to the race.
“We’ve had a very quality week of training,” Hunt said. “Our team did a long run and two workouts focusing on anaerobic tolerance, which went very well. The physical preparation for nationals has been the best of any race we’ve had this year. We’ve been fortunate to have good health and positive spirits over the past few weeks.”
Saturday marks the 10th NCAA National Championships appearance in the last 15 seasons under head coach Steve Spence. His direction has already led the Raiders to a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship this season and has once again put the SU squad in the position for success on the national level.
“I feel that it’s important to keep the workouts familiar and to not overdo it,” Spence said. “At this point, the hay is in the barn. I want them well-rested and feeling some spring in the legs.”
Shippensburg is joined in Missouri by fellow Atlantic Region teams Charleston and Davis & Elkins, Mountain East Conference (MEC) squads that narrowly edged the Raiders two weeks ago in the team standings at the regional championships. Also from the Atlantic are individual qualifiers Joey Cintavey and Ethan Brentham of Slippery Rock and Concord’s Logan Zuchelli.
“This group had a goal of qualifying for the national meet, and it’s taken many of them four or five years to make that happen,” Spence said. “I have stressed trust in our training, that we need continue to take precautions to stay healthy, to run smart and to run our best race. That will result in us beating the teams that we should beat and allow us to beat some teams that make tactical errors. I talked about having no regrets at the finish line.”
It’s an approach that is fresh in the mindset of the Raider runners.
“Reaching the national level brings more nerves to racing, but having your team make it motivates everyone to race for something more than themselves,” Quinan said.
As far as the Missouri Southern course, it’s a venue at which Shippensburg last competed in 2015, when Austin McGinley earned All-America honors (32nd place) and the Raiders placed fifth as a team – its third-best finish in school history.
“We’ve run this course in the past and our Ship runners seem to run well on it,” Spence said. “The last time we were here, our men placed fifth, only 10 points away from making the podium. It has a lot of twists and turns that break a runner’s rhythm, but there are no major hills.”
Saturday’s race will be the end of a months-long journey for the Raiders, and the culmination of a splendid fall season that has been full of outstanding accomplishments.
“It’s been a fantastic Fall season for this group of young men, having won most of the invitationals and also the PSAC Championships with scores in the 20s,” Spence said. “They have also crowned Quinan as our third PSAC champion. Five years ago, we had a very young and talented team that set a goal of qualifying for NCAAs. It’s very rewarding to see Nate Harding and Kevin Wagner realize that goal, as well as Drew Dailey, who is recovering from surgery, and AJ Plowman, who is serving as a volunteer coach.”
To get to this final stage, it takes a village, and that is not lost on the members of the team – particularly Hunt.
“We would like to thank everyone surrounding our program for the immense support we’ve received this year,” Hunt said. “Without the investment of our families, coaches, trainers, administration and alumni, it’s unlikely we would have maximized our potential as a team. Representing Shippensburg at NCAAs is the ultimate privilege, and I look forward to sharing this experience with my teammates.”
Shippensburg’s Projected Lineup:
Senior Aiden Gonder (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Red Land) [2-time USTFCCCA All-Region]
Graduate Nathan Harding (Mohnton, Pa./Governor Mifflin)
Graduate Hayden Hunt (Shippensburg, Pa./Shippensburg Area) [3-time USTFCCCA All-Region, 2021 NCAA Qualifier]
Sophomore Garrett Quinan (Stewartstown, Pa./Kennard-Dale) [2-time USTFCCCA All-Region]
Senior Ian Sherlock (Hopewell, Pa./Northern Bedford County) [1-time USTFCCCA All-Region]
Graduate Kevin Wagner (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown West) [1-time USTFCCCA All-Region]
Sophomore Ryan Wolfe (Lebanon, Pa./Cedar Crest) [1-time USTFCCCA All-Region]
Alternate: Freshman Brennan Wellock (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West)
SHIP’s History at NCAA Cross Country Championships:
SHIP All-Americans at NCAA Cross Country Championships:
2017: Alex Balla (37th)
2016: Kieran Sutton (25th)
2015: Austin McGinley (32nd)
2012: Matt Gillette (17th)
2010: Brandon Boyer (38th)
2005: John Somers (21st)
1991: Randy Lowe (5th)
1990: Randy Lowe (3rd)
1989: Chris Monheim (23rd)
1984: Steve Spence (15th)
1984: Rob Berkebile (17th)
1982: Steve Spence (13th)
1980: Gregg Sanders (6th)
1980: Gary Bicking (8th)
1979: Gregg Sanders (9th)
1978: John Doub (6th)
1977: John Doub (23rd)
[13 individual All-Americans, 17 total All-America finishes]
The Top 40 finishers will earn United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-America classifications.