ANDERSON, Ind. - For the first time in school history, Franciscan University of Steubenville will send a male and a female runner to the Division III Cross Country Championships.
Bill Jones finished in first place, and Nichole Krajewski finished in 13th place at the Great Lakes Regional Championships, both qualifying for the national championships next Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.
As one of the top runners in the nation all year, Jones's performed at an expected high level, while Krajewski, who just missed qualifying last year, became the first Lady Baron to ever qualify for nationals.
"We knew she would finish close, because she missed it by just eight seconds last year," head coach Dan Kuebler said. "She came out really strong and took the lead after about a half mile. Some of the other runners then pushed back and she ended in 13th place."
Jones, who has won most of his meets this season with a comfortable lead, was pushed to the very end, winning his race by a second.
The Baron senior and an All-American from Calvin College broke away from the pack and were neck and neck with 500 meters to go.
Jones, who has been working on adding an extra kick to his last half mile, took a slight lead and held off his opponent.
While the victory wasn't dominant, Kuebler said the close race will help Jones next weekend as he tries to win the Barons' first national championship.
"I think its great for him because he knows that when he goes to nationals he's not going to run away with anything," Kuebler said. "Its gonna be a dogfight next weekend. Its gonna come down to whoever has the most stuff in the last half mile and we saw that out of Bill today."
The day was also an emotional one for Kuebler, as it marked the final race for a number of his seniors; a class that has been paramount in helping to take the program from a club sport to top NCAA Division III program. Kuebler said that seniors Theresa Evans, and Jack Kaiser ran well in their final race.
"Just watching them run their last race for Franciscan was just really emotional because they've meant so much to this program," Kuebler said. "This group is really something special."