Deep, strong cross country squads eye up Vancouver run

Photo by Sam Robinson| Point Park Athletics
The men’s and women’s cross country teams look to return to the NAIA National Championship Meet this year in Vancouver, Wash.

Written By Dara Collins, Co-Sports Editor

The 2017 men’s and women’s cross country teams look to unite to complete the quest to nationals in Vancouver, Wash.

The men placed sixth at the River States Conference (RSC) Championships last year while the women placed third. The Pioneers started the 2016 season strong before everything took a turn for the worst, according to junior Taylor Celich. Injuries and illnesses at times held the team back from reaching its full potential.

“I always focus on the team, but it’s going to be even more of a focus this year because I think we’re stronger together,” fourth-year head coach Kelly Parsley said. “And though we have some exceptional individuals, I think even those individuals will be even better if we’re able to have a team make it to nationals.”

To achieve this goal, the men’s program welcomes, and welcomes back, 14 runners. Eric Torres, the 2014 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Cross Country runner-up and 2015 5K and 10K conference champion returns to the Pioneers after a two-year hiatus, and Connor Wright returns after a year at Crowley (Kan.) County Community College.

The women add 15 recruits, many of whom medaled at their respective state meets in high school. Kayla Roberts joins the herd from Las Vegas, Nev. She received numerous state medals in cross country and track and field and finished sixth in the state in cross country last fall.

Toledo, Ohio-native Kylie Archibeque also joins the Pioneers as a previous state qualifier and will also play on the women’s basketball team.

“We have a really good recruiting class,” Parsley said. “Probably by far the best in the school history thus far.”

Anna Shields headlines the women’s roster after earning four all-american honors in track and field and RSC Athlete of the Year, among other awards.

“Anna Shields just came off an incredible track season where she was a national champion, the first national champion in Point Park history of any sport,” Parsley said.

Shields is set to perform her best season yet, according to Celich.

“It’s crazy to think that somebody who has done so well already with all her records she’s broken and the awards she’s won, ‘Oh my gosh, how can this girl get any better?’” Celich said. “She will.”

Parsley acknowledges the depth of the women’s crew.

“We’ve never been this talented from top to bottom,” Parsley said.

Sophomores Dannys Marrero, Nathaniel Hersh and junior Desmond Marrow return to the men’s crew after placing in last year’s conference championship.

Senior Chris Hunt, junior Sean Hilverding and junior Bradley Calleja captain the men’s squad while seniors Alexis Sherman and Brittany Maniet hold down the women.

Hunt said the captains collectively bring the team together and maintain a positive attitude.

The Pioneers will compete at the Carnegie Mellon University Invitational on Oct. 7 for their sole appearance in Pittsburgh this fall. The RSC Championship Meet is slated for Nov. 4 in Asbury, Ky., and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championship Meet takes place Nov. 18 in Vancouver.