Pictured are Grace's 4x800-meter relay squads after their NAIA All-American performances on Friday
Pictured are Grace's 4x800-meter relay squads after their NAIA All-American performances on Friday
GULF SHORES, Ala. – The NAIA Nationals track and field meet filled with historic firsts for Grace concluded on Friday in Alabama. The Grace men recorded their first-ever top 10 finish, while the women produced their first NAIA All-Americans in outdoor track and field.

With two more All-American performances, the Lancer men totaled 21 points in the meet, which was good for a 10th-place tie. The previous high for the program was 18th at last year’s championships.

The women ended with 11 points to finish the Lady Lancers in 23rd place. It also marked the highest finish in women’s program history.

The third day of competition started with the finals of the 4x800-meter relays. The Lancer women ran first and made history by finishing in third place. The foursome of Tara Friesen, Heather Plastow, Anna Hulstedt and Kylie Sauder become the first outdoor track and field NAIA All-Americans at Grace. Their time of 9:08.76 also broke the school record the group set the previous day in the preliminaries.

The men’s 4x800 relay followed and produced another third-place performance and another school record. Luke Smith, Tanner Sallee, Logan Rufenacht and Kyle Smith ran 7:31.22 to better the Grace mark set a year ago.

Sauder and Kyle Smith returned later in the day to compete in the finals of the 800. Running their fourth 800 in two days, the pair managed near-record performances.

Sauder was in eighth place after the first lap of her race, but made a charge over the final 150 meters to claim fourth. Her time of 2:12.98 ties the school record she set earlier in the season. Sauder also becomes the first individual NAIA outdoor track All-American for the Lady Lancers.

Kyle Smith was in the middle of the pack after a fairly slow first lap of his 800 final. He put himself into contention on the backstretch of the second lap and held on for fourth place, only a half-second behind the winner. His time of 1:51.56 was just .02 off his own school record. A multiple-time NAIA All-American in the relays, this was Smith’s first individual honor in his final race as a Lancer.

The national meet concluded for Grace with Bryan Hernandez-Rios competing in the 5,000. Although he spent the first half of the race in the front pack, Hernandez-Rios was unable to finish due to the heat and other factors. The junior set multiple school records this year and won both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the Crossroads League Championships.

The NAIA National Championship brings to a close the season for the Lancers. The team leaves Gulf Shores with the first-ever NAIA National Champion (Isaac Brown in the high jump), the first NAIA All-Americans for the women’s program, and the highest team finishes ever for both the men and women.