Written by Student Assistant Garrett Hittner
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University men's and women's cross country teams are heading to Claremont, California for the weekend to compete at the NCAA Division III West Region Championships. The Lutes come off a weekend of rest after competing at the Northwest Conference Championships on Oct. 28 with the men's team finishing in second place overall and the women placing ninth as a team.
One standout Lute was first year Jonathan Maier. He finished the 8,000-meter course in a time of 26 minutes, 54.0 seconds at the NWC meet to finish 17th overall for the men. Maier was the fastest freshman to cross the line and not surprisingly, was named the NWC Freshman of the Year after his outstanding performance at the meet. Maier has followed through with his objectives for the season thus far.
"I didn't really have any huge goals coming into the season. All that I really wanted was to be a part of the team and to make it the best that it could be."
Helping the men's team to a second place finish at conference is a huge help for the Lutes and is the start of a great career in Tacoma for Maier. He still remains humble in his accomplishments and recognition after the conference meet.
"I didn't realize that I had finished as the top freshman in the race, or that there was such an award, but I was still happy that I was able to run fast enough to get the award."
It can often be a difficult experience transitioning from high school to college. Jonny, the Seattle native, did not seem to have any such issues. He also praised his teammates in his first few month in college helping him feel at home
"Everyone on the team is very welcoming. It has been a lot of fun getting to know them and becoming a part of athletic life at PLU."
Maier wasn't the only Lute winning awards at the conference meet. Brad Hodkinson won the meet and NWC Athlete of the Year honors for the second straight season while Kyle Rapacz and Porter Kreier both earned All-Conference honors.
When he is not in the classroom or running, Maier enjoys hanging out with his cross country teammates, playing ping pong, basketball, and soccer.
For the women, it was Tayler Cearley leading the Lutes at the NWC Championships, finishing 21st overall after completing the 6,000-meter course in 23:58.1. It was Cearley's first time competing at the conference meet after transferring to PLU this fall. The positive atmosphere at PLU has helped Cearley intigrate into the team and hit the ground running.
"I feel like we're a family and really close knit and I didn't really feel I had that experience at my other college but I love PLU's team."
Saturday's regional meet will get underway at 9 a.m. with the men's 8K race with the women's 6K race to follow at 10 a.m. The regional field will include 21 women's teams competing while 19 men's teams will toe the start line at the Pomona College Cross Country Course in Claremont.