Pictured are Kyle Smith (R) and Tanner Sallee (L) celebrating finishing first and second respectively in the 800-meter race for Grace on Friday at the Crossroads League Championships
Pictured are Kyle Smith (R) and Tanner Sallee (L) celebrating finishing first and second respectively in the 800-meter race for Grace on Friday at the Crossroads League Championships
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Grace track and field battled the weather and league foes at the Crossroads League Championships. The meet was held at the Harris Family Track and Field Stadium on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Grace won seven events at the championships, and the men finished the meet as the runners-up to mark the highest finish in recent history.

The two-day meet was held under less than ideal conditions with cool temperatures and regular rain showers.

Bryan Hernandez-Rios and Kyle Smith played a part in 50 team points for the men, as Grace scored 116 points to record the best finish in recent years. Marian University won with 173 points, while Bethel (110.5) and Taylor (93) finished behind the Lancers.

Hernandez-Rios was named the Most Valuable Running Event Athlete after winning both the 5,000-meter title and the 10,000 championship. Hernandez-Rios pulled away over the last lap to finish the 5,000 in 14:42.18. Dimitri Margaritidis was seventh in the race (15:18.13), and Korry Hamlin ended eighth (15:20.29).

“We are proud of Bryan for all that he's overcome and accomplished, but even more so, for his investments in his teammates,” said distance coach Jake Poyner. “He races with courage and he inspires others. This weekend was an exciting sign of where his training is at as we gear up for NAIAs.”

Kyle Smith claimed the 800 race and anchored the 4x400 relay squad to a win on Friday. He also anchored Thursday's 4x800 championship quartet. Smith ran 1:52.43 to take the 800, followed closely by teammate Tanner Sallee who ended second in 1:52.71.

Michael Williams, Luke Smith and Isaac Beatty joined Kyle Smith to win the 4x400 relay in 3:22.83.

The women's squad scored 100 points to finish fifth in the team competition, matching their score and position from a year ago. Marian won with 211 points, followed by Indiana Wesleyan (134), Taylor (127) and Bethel (116).

Kylie Sauder earned three All-League honors (top-3 finishers), including taking the 800 title in 2:14.68. Teammates Tara Friesen finished sixth (2:19.05) and Anna Hulstedt seventh (2:19.69) for the Lancers.

Sauder, who ran on the second-place 4x800 relay on the meet's first day, also ended the meet by anchoring the 4x400 relay to a third-place finish in 4:04.68. Friesen, Sara Lopez-Ochoa and Zoe Huley were part of the relay.

One of the most impressive efforts of the day was turned in by Gracious O'Connor. She won the 200 meters in a new school record and NAIA "A" qualifying time of  24.34. O'Connor also ran on the 4x100 relay, which placed second in 48.08. She was joined on the relay by Zoe Huley, Nordia Campbell and Lyne Camara.

"Instead of focusing on the poor weather, our athletes focused on the one thing they could control, which was themselves," said Grace track and field head coach Michael Moffitt. "We were able to produce some special performances and moments as a team. This is a group that isn't afraid to go for big moments, and it showed. I'm proud of how these athletes have pushed themselves all year."

Others earning All-League honors for the men were Margaritidis, who was third in the 1,500 (3:55.45), John Green, third in the 200 (21.75), Connor Kitson, third in the decathlon (5,049 points), and the men's 4x100 relay of Williams, Myles Frohling, Josh Pike and Green (42.60). On the women's side Emma Conrad finished third in the 100 hurdles (15.56), and Olivia Lugibihl ended third in the heptathlon (2,713 points).

Several other Lancer athletes turned in strong performances. Those included: Logan Rufenacht, fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase; Dakota Ames, seventh in the 3000 steeplechase; Seth Yoder, sixth in the decathlon; Nordia Campbell, sixth in the 100; Heather Plastow, fourth in the 1500 and fourth in the 5,000; Elizabeth Moore, fifth in the 5,000; Madelyn Yoder, sixth in the 100 hurdles; Michaela Buriff, sixth in the 400 hurdles; and Lanae Crowe, fifth in the discus.

The Lancers will compete in the NCCAA Track and Field Championships next week, May 11-13, at Greenville University in Illinois.



Wright earns All-Crossroads League nod

WINONA LAKE, Ind. - Noah Wright earned conference recognition after a strong season with Grace’s men’s golf team.

Wright was named an honorable mention for the All-Crossroads League Team to finish his senior season with the Lancers.

Wright ended his collegiate career on a high note, placing seventh in the season-ending Crossroads League Championships.

His stellar play led the Lancers to a fifth-place finish as a team.

Over the course of his career, Wright led the Lancers to qualify for four consecutive NCCAA National Championships. Grace finished fourth in the NCCAA in both 2019 and 2021. Wright earned NCCAA All-American status in 2019.