Croup’s Corner – Scary good Shields

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

The men’s and women’s cross country teams could be at their best yet this season.

Their recruiting class for both teams have been touted by head coach Kelly Parsley, now in his fourth year at the school and third year as the head cross country coach, as the best he’s ever had at Point Park.

Last weekend, we got our first look at this year’s squad.

There are several storylines to watch out for from the program that arguably made the difference in Point Park’s two-straight River States Conference (RSC) Commissioner’s All-Sports Cup victories during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Robert Berger detailed several of those storylines in his recap of the team’s first meet last weekend at NCAA Division-II Walsh University. In sum, both sides improved dramatically from last year and some newcomers are going to make substantial additions to the squads.

Of all the headlines and storylines that came out of last weekend, Anna Shields stands out ahead of the rest. Nobody was ahead of her at the end of Saturday’s meet.

Shields broke out onto the scene last year during her first season with the Pioneers cross country and track and field teams.

She had success during cross country season and eventually became the program’s first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American and national champion in track and field.

Shields tied the school record in the women’s 5K at last year’s NAIA National Championship meet with Katie Guarnaccia, who is not returning this season, with times of 18 minutes, 20 seconds.

She shattered that time in the season’s first meet. Shattered. Destroyed.

Her meet-winning time of 17 minutes, 19 seconds on Saturday would have placed her at fourth in the nation at last year’s national championship.

It was only the first meet of the season. She ran a time of 19 minutes, 59 seconds at last year’s Walsh Invitational.

Shields has a realistic chance of winning the NAIA National Championship meet this year in Vancouver, Wash, or at least coming in the top five. The top 30 runners at the national championship receive NAIA All-American honors.

She had a statement first race of the year and set a remarkable tone for the 2017 cross country season. If the rest continue to follow her lead, these squads really could be something special.