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Lights cross country program reaches new milestone

Northern harriers ranked in NAIA Men's Top 25


Last updated 11/25/2020 at 1:16pm

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Liam Baez-Terry crosses the finish line at the Frontier Conference Championships earlier this month in Havre. After finishing third at the meet, the Lights are now ranked in the NAIA Men's Coaches Poll for the first time in the program's six-year history.

They came close last season. Now, they've achieved a major goal. The Montana State University-Northern Lights cross country team is nationally ranked.

In the newest NAIA Men's Cross Country Coaches Poll, the Lights, of head coach Chad Spangler, are ranked 25th. It's the first time in the program's brief history that a Northern cross country team has been nationally ranked.

"We were closing in on national recognition at the end of last season, getting some votes from some raters in different parts of the country," Spangler said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish well last year and we didn't make the cut at the end of the season. This year was different; the guys stayed healthy, patient and poised. They earned the recognition, and they certainly earned my respect."

Indeed. The Lights finished third at the Frontier Conference Championships earlier this month in Havre. If the rankings hold, the men's team will travel to Cedar Rapids Iowa for the National Cross-Country Championships in April.

Normally, the NAIA Championships are in the fall, but, they were moved to spring due to COVID-19. Conferences were allowed to still compete in the fall however, and the Frontier did just that. Of course, several conferences won't compete until the start of the spring semester, which means the coaches poll will be fluid. Still, the Lights, who also have Field Soosloff already pre-qualified for the national championships, will do what they can to train and stay ready in case the team does indeed get the call for the national meet, which will be held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in April.

"This would also be historic for the program. In any other year, the ticket would have already been punched and the team would be at nationals right now," Spangler said last week. "This year, however, there are still a few conferences that delayed their season and still have the opportunity to compete in meets and push themselves into the Top 25 polls. We've never had to train for races in the winter and that will be a challenge. If we don't train and compete this winter, there is a good chance we'll lose our national standing by March. It seems a little unfair, but I like the idea of toughing through a winter training schedule. If it all works out, I think our men will be pretty tough by April. They'll definitely learn some new limits."


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