Point Park Globe

Shields makes history as nation’s top runner

Star runner wins third of “triple crown” honors

Competition+photos+taken+of+Anna+Shields+from+2016%2C+2017+and+now+2018.+Anna+Shields+surpassed+even+her+own+expectations+when+she+won+the+NAIA+National+championship+in+Iowa.
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Shields makes history as nation’s top runner

Competition photos taken of Anna Shields from 2016, 2017 and now 2018. Anna Shields surpassed even her own expectations when she won the NAIA National championship in Iowa.

Competition photos taken of Anna Shields from 2016, 2017 and now 2018. Anna Shields surpassed even her own expectations when she won the NAIA National championship in Iowa.

Photo by Robert Berger and NAIA

Competition photos taken of Anna Shields from 2016, 2017 and now 2018. Anna Shields surpassed even her own expectations when she won the NAIA National championship in Iowa.

Photo by Robert Berger and NAIA

Photo by Robert Berger and NAIA

Competition photos taken of Anna Shields from 2016, 2017 and now 2018. Anna Shields surpassed even her own expectations when she won the NAIA National championship in Iowa.

Written By Robert Berger, Sports Photo Editor

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At this time in 2015, Anna Shields had given up on being a successful collegiate athlete and was working at a bank in her hometown of Torrington, Connecticut. Now in her senior year, Shields is a cross country National Champion and a National Athlete of the Year.

“It feels really surreal …and I can be critical of myself, but sometimes I have to take a step back and look at how far I’ve come,” Shields said. “When I think about that, it’s truly a dream come true and almost impossible to describe.”

After taking first place in the River States Conference (RSC) Championship meet earlier this month, the women’s team qualified for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Shields took a lead out of the opening pack and maintained that lead throughout the first lap, which she completed in 5 minutes, 33 seconds.  Junior Emily Kearney of SCAD Atlanta followed closely with only 1 second separating the two at the first marker.

“I got stuck in the pack just at the beginning, but as soon as I got out of being boxed in I took the lead,” Shields said.

Dealing with temperatures in the low thirties and heavy wind gusts, Shields maintained her pace and furthered the gap by 5 seconds at the end of the second mile with a time of 11 minutes, 5 seconds.

“I tried to leave my jacket and pants on before the start, but standing on the starting line, it was definitely cold. I also wore gloves for the first time in a race,” Shields said.

Using the course to her advantage, she kept her lead during the final lap and finished the race in a course record-breaking time of 17 minutes, 15 seconds, ahead of second place finisher Kearney by four seconds.

“The course was flat and firm so I tried to think of it as a track race and put any doubts out of my mind,” Shields said.

The senior now has six NAIA title wins under her belt. The previous five coming from the track and field NAIA National Championships. This was her first cross country win at the national level.

“I’m very excited I was able to win a cross country championship because I’ve never done it before, even in high school,” Shields said. “This is my first cross country title and it was a great way to finish off my last cross country season.”

Shields raced in last year’s NAIA National Championships in which she finished 12th place in. This year, Shields was named NAIA Athlete of the Year following the win.

“I tried to go out for the win and really faded in the latter stages of the race last year,” Shields said. “I’m a stronger runner now than last year… my plan was to just go for it and run my own race and think how I can run a good time on this course.”

To achieve these honors, Shields earned six individual race wins this season and claimed four RSC Runner of the Week awards. She also holds the best 5K time completed by an NAIA runner this season which came in Louisville earlier this year after finishing the 5K in 17 minutes, 3 seconds.

The women’s team placed 18th overall at the meet with freshman Alyssa Campbell placing second for Point Park in 18 minutes, 48 seconds and average mile time of 6 minutes, 3 seconds.

Due to the crowded course, the freshman had to avoid tripping over athletes at the beginning of the race while attempting to break free of the opening pack.

“We were right in the middle and when we took off I got boxed in and we saw some girls tumbling and tripping so we were lucky all of us were able to stay safe,” Campbell said.

Out of 341 runners, Campbell finished in 109th place with a time of 18 minutes, 48 seconds.

“I am happy with my time though because I was able to run sub 18 minutes all season which is something I am trying to reflect back on,” Campbell said.

Senior Katie Guarnaccia was the third Pioneer to cross the finish line and did so in 19 minutes, 2 seconds. By competing this year, Guarnaccia became the first cross country athlete to compete at nationals four times.

Senior Kara Rohlf finished fourth for Point Park and had her best nationals finish of her career in 19 minutes, 15 seconds.

The team received a score of 501 points placing them 18th overall at the meet. The team averaged a time of 18 minutes, 53 seconds. This was Point Park’s second year in a row qualifying for nationals, and the third appearance in program history.

While the men’s team did not qualify for the meet, junior Xavier Stephens competed individually and set a school record for the fastest time in an 8,000 meter race.

“I started off strong and got through the 5k pretty fast,” Stephens said. “My fourth mile I slowed down but my last mile was pretty good and I picked it up.”

Stephens finished in 25 minutes, 59 seconds and became the first Pioneer to finish under 26 minutes. Stephens broke his previous personal best finish, which he set earlier this season by 38 seconds.

“Finishing under 26 was definitely my goal,” Stephens said. “It was cool being alone, but it would have been better had the guys been there with me.”

While the athletes were the ones to compete nationally, a number of team members credit the success to head coach Kelly Parsley who was named RSC Coach of the Year.

“He helped me at nationals to believe in myself to get me here and I’m so grateful for that,” Shields said. “He did so much to build up this program and get us here and I think he is very deserving of the coach of the year award.”

This is Parsley’s fourth year as head coach and is responsible for creating the program in 2015.

While the cross country season has wrapped up, many of the athletes have begun training for the indoor track and field season which gets underway Dec. 7, in Youngstown, Ohio.

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