State Colleges

Friends runners having banner year

There's not a whole lot the Friends men's and women's cross-country teams haven't accomplished so far this season.

Celebrity fans, breaking three-decade winning streaks, conference titles, national rankings ... you name it, they've got it covered.

"It's pretty special," Friends coach Brad Peterson said. "I'm really happy with what we've done."

The Falcons swept the KCAC cross-country titles last week at McPherson, with the men breaking Southwestern's 31-year streak of league titles.

"I can't believe there's many longer streaks in the history of sports, anywhere," Peterson said. "It's not like they're a bad team or having an off year, they're ranked 16th."

It was the first league title in school history for the men, ranked No. 5 in the latest NAIA poll. The No. 6-ranked women's team has yet to lose a meet this year, just like top runner Jordan Arnold, who has won every race by at least 30 seconds.

Both teams advanced to nationals next Saturday at Vancouver, Wash., the first appearance there for either squad.

"Jordan will be in the mix at nationals," Peterson said. "Her attitude is second to none in terms of how good she wants to be and her commitment. We've had some issues in the past with injuries because she's pretty little and has a tendency to break down, but she's as good a runner as I've ever coached."

Peterson, in his third year at Friends, brought several of his star runners to Wichita when he left Indiana Tech after two years, including Arnold and men's runner Matt Ditzler, who finished second in the KCAC meet behind teammate Javier Cejas. Cejas, who transferred from McPherson College, finished in 26:13. Ditzler finished in 26:14.

"It didn't matter to them who won," Peterson said. "They decided to run together and come in together."

Peterson has also been able to give his team a little extra motivation thanks to his friendship with singer Gavin DeGraw, dating back to his days in Indiana and before DeGraw's rise to fame. The Falcons have listened to DeGraw's music while training all year and listened to his song "Candy" on the way to the KCAC meet.

"It's a song about how material things only last so long," Peterson said. "So let's take advantage of the moment.

"It's been cool to have him be interested in the team... we actually got a special phone call from him and everybody kind of gathered around and listened to it. He's been very supportive, just a genuinely nice guy."