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Running for NAIA Gold

On Saturday, Havre's Rachel David will become the first MSU-Northern cross country runner to compete at the NAIA Championships

 

November 16, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Former Havre Blue Pony and current Montana State University-Northern runner Rachel David will represent the Skylights in Saturday's NAIA Cross Country Championships in Vancouver, Washington. Just a sophomore, David is the first Northern runner to qualify for the national championships.

Havre native Rachel David is no stranger to success when it comes to running. She was a cross country and track standout during her years at Havre High, and now that she has advanced into the collegiate ranks, nothing has changed.

While David is in her second season competing in cross country at Montana State University-Northern, this season marks the third year of Lights and Skylights cross country. In the previous two seasons, neither the Lights or the Skylights was able to send a runner to nationals, until David, who broke through after an 11th-place finish at the Frontier Conference Championships in Helena Nov. 4.

"It's kind of hard for me to believe," David said. "I knew after the race that I was happy with my time, but honestly, I wasn't even thinking of nationals or anything. I actually didn't even realize that I had made it until my coach called me that next Monday. So it wasn't something I was expecting, but I am very honored and excited about the opportunity."

The fact that David did well enough to run at NAIA nationals may have been a surprise to her, but it certainly wasn't a shock to Northern cross country head coach Chad Spangler.

"It wasn't a surprise to me at all," Spangler said. "Judging by the times that she had run, I knew that she had a pretty good chance. I didn't want to put any added pressure on her, so I didn't really talk to her about it, but I knew she had a chance to do well. I thought she could do even better than she did, it just ended up being a really fast race."

David, who also earned Frontier All-Conference honors by finishing 11th at the conference meet, did so by running a time of 19:03. For her part, David said, her biggest focus at the national meet will be just trying to run the best time she can and to try to get down into the 18 minute range.

"Honestly, I am just trying to run the best time I can," David said. "There are going to be a lot of really great runners there. So it's going to be difficult. I would like to finish in the top half, but most importantly, I want to run a good time. I am hoping for something around an 18:50."

One thing that could help David trim some seconds on her time is where she's running. The NAIA Cross Country Championships are being held in Vancouver, Washington, which has a much lower elevation than where most Frontier Conference meets are held. And running at a lower elevation can sometimes mean a better time.

"I think that she is in a position where there is not going to be a lot of expectation for her to be in the top pack," Spangler said. "And I don't know if she should be in the front pack, I don't know if that's really wise in that race for her. But I expect her to surprise a lot of people by where she does finish. She is just such a competitor and she's going to get in there. I think our training the past couple weeks has been really good and I think the sea-level change is going to be really good for her and so I am expecting her to be in that top half for sure."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Former Havre Blue Pony and current Montana State University-Northern runner Rachel David will represent the Skylights in Saturday's NAIA Cross Country Championships in Vancouver, Washington. Just a sophomore, David is the first Northern runner to qualify for the national championships.

Spangler also said that with David breaking through to the national meet, she will give others something to shoot for.

"I think hitting that milestone was important, at least for our women's team," Spangler said. "Now they can look at Rachel and know if they can run with her, then maybe they have a chance to go to nationals, too. So I think that's the biggest thing, it gives the rest of the women's team, something to shoot for and someone to kind of measure themselves against."

David, who was an All-State performer as a Blue Pony back in the Class A state meet in 2015, is used to big races and no matter how she finishes, she will be making program history this Saturday when she competes with the best the the NAIA has to offer.

"It really is an honor," David said. "It's a different experience because I am the first one that has done it, but I am really excited and very proud."

The NAIA Cross Country Championship is this Saturday in Vancouver, Washington.

 

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