By Colbi Howser
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is excited to announce that the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 NAIA Men’s & Women’s Cross Country National Championships are heading to two cities in the next four years. The Cascade Collegiate Conference and Mount Mercy University will serve as the official co-hosts with the event taking place at Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course in Vancouver, Wash. in 2017 and 2019, Cedar Rapids, Iowa will host in 2018 and 2020 at the Seminole Valley Cross Country Course.
“The NAIA is excited about our Men’s & Women’s Cross Country National Championships finding a home in two great cities throughout the United States,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “We look forward to seeing the Cascade Collegiate Conference and Mount Mercy University put on first-class events in the coming years.”
Mount Mercy University, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is nestled on a hill in the historical Mount View neighborhood where nearly 1,900 students call home from around the globe. The Mustangs are members of the Heart of America Athletic Conference and the institution currently offer 17 varsity sports, including both men’s and women’s cross country. As the host institution, Mount Mercy University will receive one men’s and women’s automatic berth to the championship field in 2018 and 2020.
"This is an opportunity we've been looking forward to for several years,” said Paul Gavin, Mount Mercy University Director of Athletics. “It will allow us to showcase two very exciting things -- the history and growth of Mount Mercy University and the work that went into developing our home cross country course."
The state of Iowa is no stranger to hosting NAIA national championships either. Iowa has been home to 41 national championships since 1967 when Davenport (Iowa) hosted the men’s golf event. Sioux City has seen its fair share of championship events, hosting 32 NAIA national championships ranging from Division II women’s basketball (19 years), volleyball (nine years), wrestling (two years) and softball (two years). Cedar Rapids has also held two events in 1984 and 1985 when Division I Women’s Basketball called it home.
“We expect this event will showcase a great new cross country course. Mount Mercy University and the Cedar Rapids community will roll out the red carpet for NAIA athletes and fans,” said Aaron McCreight, GO Cedar Rapids President and CEO. “We also expect that after experiencing this championship in Cedar Rapids, the participants and fans will want to come back again and again.
The Seminole Valley Cross-Country Course will provide the runners with natural park-like settings, mowed fields and wetland areas. The course has multiple loops and a layout that serves 4, 5, 6 and 8k races for high school and collegiate level events. Seminole Valley Cross-Country Course has also been home to Iowa’s state-qualifying meet for Class 1A and Class 4A high schools.
The Cascade Collegiate Conference, located in the upper northwest of the United States was formed in 1978 and has evolved into one of the NAIA’s most formidable leagues. The conference has 11 full-member schools, as well as five associate member schools and offers six men’s sports and seven women’s sports. As the host entity, the Cascade Collegiate Conference will receive one men’s and women’s automatic berth to the championship field in 2017 and 2019.
“We are thrilled to bring the NAIA men's and women's cross country championships back to the west and to the Historic Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington,” said Robert Cashell, Cascade Collegiate Athletic Conference Commissioner. “Not only does it provide a very unique experience for all the participants, the Pacific Northwest is really a runners mecca that has an allure and reputation as one of the best areas in the country for races.”
The state of Washington has previously welcomed a NAIA national championship event 20 times in association history with the first championship held in 1977 when the cities of Seattle and Cheney, Wash. hosted the football and wrestling events. The most recent event came in 2012 when none other than the men’s & women’s cross country national championships were held in Vancouver. Six of Washington’s cities have had the opportunity to hold a championship event.
The Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course has a long standing history of hosting cross country events dating back to 2001, where the USA Men’s and Women’s National Championships/World Cross Country Trails was ran. The rolling, European-style course consists of two kilometer loops that is ran on grass. The course will bring sections of flat, uphill and downhill challenges to each runner.
The NAIA has sponsored Men’s & Women’s Cross Country since the 1956-57 academic year, with the inaugural championship taking place in Omaha, Neb. Former NAIA member South Dakota State men’s team took home the coveted prize over runner-up, former member Fort Hays State (Kan.). The women’s championship event started in 1980 in Salina, Kan. Former member Wisconsin-Parkside ran away with the trophy, beating former member Emporia State (Kan.).
Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall educational experience. In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character-building aspects of sport. Through the Champions of Character program, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
To learn more about NAIA Men’s & Women’s Cross Country, click here.
To learn more about the Cascade Collegiate Conference, click here.
For more information about Mount Mercy University, click here.