Morningside’s women and men’s cross country teams both picked up fifth-place finishes at the GPAC Cross Country Championships hosted by Midland University at North Bend, NE.

NORTH BEND, NEB. – A breezy and rainy morning didn’t dampen the Mustangs’ spirits as they headed to the Great Plains Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships in North Bend, Neb. on Nov. 3.  Morningside’s women and men both placed fifth overall in the team rankings with Allison Higgins and Tony Patton both collecting second place hardware.

Higgins, a senior from Jefferson, Iowa, turned in a time of 18:30.80 over the five kilometer course.  Allison, who has consistently been Morningside’s leader on the course this season, moved up in the standings with today’s meet, and secured an individual place at the NAIA National Championships.

“I’m thankful,” Higgins said, addressing the crowd that had assembled after the meet.  “The four of us that got to medal today, it’s our first time being all-conference.  We couldn’t have done it without the rest of our teammates.”

Senior Cassie Warner was Morningside’s second runner in the meet, collecting a tenth place finish with a time of 19:26.17.  Warner, hailing from Council Bluffs, Iowa, joined Higgins as Morningside’s representatives on the GPAC All-Conference team.

Senior Megan Maaske, junior Alex George, and freshman Tenna Beel rounded out the Mustangs’ top five.  Maaske placed 25th with a time of 20:03.24, George was less than a second behind in 26th with a time of 20:04.20, and Beel finished 41st with a time of 20:35.15.

Tony Patton, a senior from Lincoln, NE, jumped out to the number one spot on the second loop of the race before dropping back on the finish loop. Patton battled with teammate Connor Ritz down the home stretch to collect the second place finish with a time of 26:15.18.  

“It was a really special day to end the last race as a cross country team this year,” Patton commented.

Ritz, who is a sophomore from Sioux City, placed third with a time of 26:15.31 as Morningside’s second runner in the meet.  Connor and Patton both appear on the all-conference list, and will both make appearances at nationals.

Freshman Zach Ambrose, sophomore Dylan Lindstrom, and freshman Michael Rizzi wrapped up Morningside’s top five of the meet.  Ambrose placed 25th with a time of 27:17.52, Lindstrom was 44th at 28:38.14, and Rizzi placed 54th with a time of 29:06.70.

“They left it all out there,” reflected head coach Dave Nash after the awards were handed out. “I’m proud of everybody.  I’ve been coaching Morningside for a long time.  This is one of the most impressive groups that we’ve had.  It’s really an awesome day.”

Morningside’s national qualifiers look ahead to the NAIA Cross Country Championships on Friday, November 16th in Cedar Rapids at the Seminole Valley Cross Country Course.