ROME — In a year of many race cancellations, it didn’t appear that the Shawnee State University men’s distance program lost its stride last Friday.
The defending Mid-South Conference cross country champions had a strong team performance at the Kentucky Christian University Ice Breaker, where two runners qualified for the NAIA Indoor National Championships.
Both qualifiers came from the 5,000 meters, where senior Hunter Hoover and junior Jonah Phillips both ran under the “B” standard of 15:20.
Since the race was on an outdoor track, their times were adjusted to the equivalent time of what they would have ran on a 200-meter indoor track.
Even with the converted times, Phillips went home with a 30-second personal-best — and Hoover was encouraged to be close to his personal-best of 14 minutes and 44 seconds despite dealing with injuries.
Just getting back to racing was something for Hoover to be excited about, not having raced formally since a 3,000-meters race in February.
“You just felt like there was no such thing as COVID-19,” he said, although precautions were still required before and after the race. “It felt good to forget about everything going on.”
Hoover was just in his fifth week of training after taking time off from running to deal with plantar fascitis.
This required him to modify his training, not hitting his typical weekly mileage.
Now taking a week off to allow his training to align with his teammates, Hoover plans on racing more and getting another qualifying time in the 3,000 meters.
All of this is pending the coronavirus, he realizes, as it appears that the national meet in South Dakota will be modified.
“We had a lot of people close in the 5K, so they’ll definitely re-do some 5Ks,” he said, where four other teammates broke the 16-minute barrier in Rome.
Even SSU head coach Eric Putnam got in on the fun and ran a time of 15 minutes and 20 seconds.
In what will be his first Indoor Nationals appearance, Hoover wants to follow in the footsteps of three-time NAIA Indoor All-American Seth Farmer — and also earn that status.
“Seth Farmer set the standard for what Shawnee guys are trying to do at Nationals,” he said. “At this point, it’s just trying to be All-American and not going in with expectations and racing hard.”
In addition to Hoover’s and Phillips’ races, the Bears were led by freshmen Alex Morris in the 3,000 meters and Noah Kanniard in the mile and 1,000 meters, who took home victories in their respective races.
Morris is a former Valley High School standout.
The men finished second in the team score with 125 points, just behind Union College.
The NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships are scheduled for March 4 thru March 6, 2021 in Brookings, South Dakota.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.