Story by Anna Adamyk Photos by Rachel Adamyk McPherson, KS — Updated Nov 5, 2017, 12:09 P.M.
The Sterling College men’s and women’s cross country team headed to McPherson, Kansas to compete in the KCAC Cross Country Championship at Rolling Acres Golf Course. “The running conditions were about as ideal as they could have been for a cross country race,” commented Lacey Buckwalter, senior.
The men raced their eight-kilometer race at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. Going into the KCAC Championship race, the men consistently earned middle placement at invitationals throughout the season.
With the fourth year defending champions, University of St. Mary, Sterling men faced a challenge. Rolando Phalen, junior, came in first for Sterling in thirteenth place with a time of 27:13.1, averaging a 5:28 mile. His time earned him a spot in the NAIA nationals, held in Vancouver, Washington on November 18.
“The team is what kept me going when things got hard.” Rolando explained, “We take the track team with us and they made signs to cheer us on and those were a huge help knowing that even in their offseason, they were cheering for us.”
The next Sterling runner, Aaron Pinkerton, senior, came in at 28:20.3 and placed thirty-seventh out of 108 runners, followed by Sterling’s Zach Williams, junior, in forty-first place with a time of 28:38.8. The Sterling men’s cross country team came in seventh place with a total score of 192 points and a time of 2:25:37.
The women’s race began at 11:15 a.m. The women’s team went into the race with a similar record as the men. The women had a rocky start to their season, placing in the lower spots in the first few races, but came back after several meets and consistently placed in the middle of their competitors.
University of St. Mary provided a challenge for the Sterling women as well and Lacey Buckwalter, senior, crossed the line in twenty-sixth place with a time of 21:20.6. About 10 seconds later, Payden Shapland, sophomore, crossed the finish line at 21:31.9 taking twenty-eighth place out of 94 runners. Later, Lora Bebermeyer, senior, finished in thirty-first place with a time of 21:36.9. The women’s cross country team came in fifth place with a total of 139 points and a time of 1:48:16.
“I have to remember that I’m not going out there to prove myself to anyone,” Lora Bebermeyer explained, “whether that be to my team, coach, or spectators… what I am about to do is to run in such a way that brings glory to God.”
During the award ceremony, Lacey Buckwalter and Aaron Pinkerton both received the Champion of Character award for the Sterling College team. “The NAIA has a Champions of Character core value checklist that includes: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership,” explained Lacey, “It is an honor to be chosen as a recipient of this award.”
Aaron Pinkerton shared his thoughts on the team, “I love running and getting to do it with a group of guys that also love running.” He also spoke of his feelings on the last cross country race of the year, “I’m not sure how to describe the mixture of feelings. It’s definitely a mixture that has yet to really settle. A certain level of sadness for leaving something so special, and gratitude for my time doing this.”