PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – Behind a gargantuan effort from new 5K record-holder Sarah Biehl and two other sub-19 second times from Anna Havranek and Katie Saling, the Shawnee State women’s cross country program jumped three spots in the latest version of the NAIA Top 25 Poll.
With the inclusion of the Bears in Wednesday’s poll, the women made their 23rd consecutive appearance in the NAIA Top 25. Shawnee State’s current No. 10 ranking is the highest that the Bears have been ranked since the NAIA Preseason Top 25 Poll, where SSU was also ranked in the No. 10 slot.
During the past weekend, the female harriers ran at the All-Ohio Championship on Friday as well as the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday, with the Bears putting up very impressive performances in both meets.
Despite not running the vast majority of his top runners in the All-Ohio Championship in order to give the aforementioned runners more rest before the Greater Louisville Classic, Shawnee State still finished 37th of 47 teams at the Cedarville, Ohio-based event even though the Bears only had a total of five runners participating in the meet.
Of those five runners, three of them ran times of under 26 seconds in the 6K event, with Alyssa Taylor, Brooke Smith, and Darian Steele all setting times that placed among the top 25 times in school history in the 6K.
With a time of 23:52.26, Taylor would lead the charge as the Georgetown, Ohio native finished 37th in the event to become the 13th fastest runner in school history.
Meanwhile, Smith and Steele would set times of 25:09.73 and 25:40.78 to finish 66th and 78th in the event and become the 17th and 22nd fastest runners in school history. Shaniah Begley also ran impressively as the McDermott, Ohio native ran a time of 26:02 to just miss making an appearance on the same list by 11 seconds.
As impressive as Friday was for the Bears, Saturday would prove to be one of the most significant days in the program’s history.
In running a time of 17:45 in the GLC’s Women’s Gold Meet, Biehl broke a program record that had stood for seven years as the Lowell, Ohio native finished 57th in a stacked field of 284 runners that included many of the best collegiate runners across the country.
With her aforementioned time of 17:45, Biehl not only broke the old record of 17:53 set by Lisa Davies-Culbertson at the Ohio University Invitational in 2008, but also won her fourth Mid-South Conference Runner of the Week award in her career – which tied her with Sara Armstrong for the most ever in program history.
Biehl was far from the only one to impress. In the GLC’s Women’s Blue Meet, the Bears finished 13th of 33 teams – edging seven NCAA Division I programs in the process – despite Biehl’s aforementioned time not counting toward the overall team score.
Havranek and Saling would have no trouble in leading the Shawnee State charge in this meet, as Havranek would grab a 33rd place finish on the heels of a 18:40.86 time while Saling would place in 56th off of a clocked time of 18:58.46.
Behind those times, Havranek would move into a tie for sixth place in program history of the fastest 25 runners while Saling would make her debut appearance on the list in 13th.
Rounding out the scoring efforts for the Bears on the afternoon were Megan Ashton, Megan Day, Jenna Liston, and Kate Spencer. Ashton, Day, and Liston all ran times of 20:00.62 or better as the trio finished 91st, 115th, and 155th, respectively. Meanwhile, Spencer’s 20:25.68 gave the sophomore a finish of 188th at the women’s blue meet.
This week’s version of the NAIA Top 25 sees a new team ranked in the No. 1 slot, as Northwest Christian (Ore.) took the top spot away from British Columbia, who fell to third place. Aquinas (Mich.) also jumped the Thunderbirds as the Saints moved from the No. 4 position to No. 2 in the polls.
As for Shawnee State, the Bears were among a pair of squads to make the biggest jump of any team ranked in a previous NAIA Top 25 Poll. SSU joined the College of Idaho – who moved from No. 10 to No. 7– in moving up three positions in the latest rankings.
The female harriers will be back in action on Friday, Oct. 9 as Shawnee State will travel to Charlotte to participate in the NAIA Preview.