UPLAND, Ind. – Taylor University men's cross country head coach, Lance Vanderberg, has announced his signing class for the 2017-2018 season, adding seven student-athletes to a roster that has recorded three-straight top-20 finishes at the NAIA National Championships.
Sam Baker, Alec DeVries, Daniel Gerber, Sam Hardy, Josh Roth, Luke Rovenstine and Andrew Runion make up the incoming class for TU, as the Trojans look to add to their impressive recent resume. Over the past three years, TU owns a 242-45 record, a trio of top-three finishes in the Crossroads League and successive finishes of 15th, 19th and 18th at the NAIA National Championships. Taylor has also paced the NAIA in Scholar-Athletes in each of the last two academic years.
"This is a very exciting class that should have an immediate impact in cross country," stated Vanderberg. "This group of newcomers will continue to provide our program with the kind of depth that has propelled us back into the NAIA national spotlight. I am excited to see how God uses them in all areas of their Taylor experience."
The seven-man class will be joined by 16 lettermen from last season. The returning unit includes four of its seven runners that competed at NAIA Nationals in 2016, highlighted by former All-Crossroads League standouts Stephen Cho and Benjamin Byrd.
Sam Baker / Carmel, IN / Carmel HS
Available Times: 1600-4:52, 5k-17:47
Baker was part of a dominant Carmel program, competing in cross country as well as track and field for the history-rich Greyhounds.
Baker is the son of Bryan and Kristi Baker and will work toward a degree in finance with a minor in business management while at Taylor, after graduating from CHS with Academic Honors.
"I chose to attend Taylor because of the Christian environment that I will be able to be a part of every day," commented Baker. "I wanted to have a community of good Christian friends to surround and support me and I felt that Taylor was the perfect fit for that. I wanted to go to a school where I could get a quality education and enjoy my time."
Alec DeVries / Sioux City, IA / Bishop Heelan Catholic / Morningside College
Available Times: 800-1:53, 1500-3:58, 3000-8:55, 8k-25:06
DeVries was a force on the cross country team for Morningside, earning a trio of team MVP nods from the Mustangs and setting the program's all-time record with a time of 25:06. DeVries was a three-time NAIA Cross Country National Qualifier, a three-time NAIA Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field National Qualifier and a two-time NAIA All-American in the 4x800-meter relay.
DeVries is the son of Michael and Tina DeVries and will work toward a master's degree in higher education at Taylor, after coming to TU from Morningside. During his undergraduate career at Morningside, DeVries was a three-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete and a member of MC's Dean's List.
"I chose TU for the opportunity to continue my running career while getting a great education in TU's Master of Arts in Higher Education program," stated DeVries.
Daniel Gerber / Danville, IN / Danville HS
Available Times: 800-1:58, 1600-4:24, 3200-9:41, 5k-15:41
Gerber was a cross country standout during his prep career at Danville High, qualifying for the Indiana State Championships on the course for the Warriors and being voted as the Danville Athlete of the Year as a senior.
Gerber is the son of Tim and Katherine Gerber and has not declared an intended major at TU.
"I chose Taylor University because of its excellent and consistent academic success, athletics programs, God-honoring coaches and professors and its proximity to home," said Gerber.
Sam Hardy / North Muskegon, MI / North Muskegon HS
Available Times: 1600-4:58, 3200-10:21, 5k-17:22
During his time at North Muskegon High, Hardy earned Most Improved honors in cross country and track, while also competing in the 3,200-meter run at the West Michigan All-Star Meet and claiming All-West Michigan Conference honors in cross country.
Hardy is the son of Dennis and Mary Hardy and hopes to earn a degree in Christian ministries during his time in Upland. Hardy earned Academic All-Michigan honors, graduated Summa Cum Laude and was a two-time member of the National Honors Society.
"I felt God calling me to Taylor," remarked Hardy. "It is such a Christ-centered school."
Josh Roth / Fishers, IN / Fishers HS
Available Times: 800-1:59, 1600-4:30, 3200-9:12, 5k-15:39
Roth was an All-Indiana and All-Hoosier Crossroads Conference standout in cross country and track for Fishers. Roth posted a 19th-place finish at the Indiana State Cross Country Championships and took fifth at the state meet in the 4x800-meter relay and sixth in the 3,200-meter run while breaking the FHS record in that event.
Roth is the son of Kevin and Suzy Roth and plans to major in mathematics. Roth's father also ran cross country and track at TU and his cousin, Cassie Crowder, was a member of the women's cross country and track programs. Roth graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fishers High, earning an Honors Diploma and finishing as a National Merit Scholar Finalist.
"In all the areas that I prioritized in a college, Taylor delivered," stated Roth.
Luke Rovenstine / Overland Park, KS / Kansas City Christian
Available Times: 800-2:02, 1600-4:39, 5k-16:53
Rovenstine excelled as a four-time all-region standout in cross country, also earning All-Missouri accolades and a trio of All-Crossroads Conference nods while helping the Panthers to a pair of regional championships. On the track, Rovenstine scored four-straight top-eight finishes at the Missouri State Championships in the 4x800-meter relay and also finished sixth at the meet as a senior in the 1,600-meter run.
Rovenstine is the son of Steve and Jennifer Rovenstine and plans to major in biology during his time in Upland. Rovenstine graduated as Valedictorian of his class at Kansas City Christian and was named as a Kansas Honors Scholar and an Honorary Scholar-Athlete.
"The Taylor University student body was unique and seemed like the best fit for me," stated Rovenstine. "Taylor stood out as a very genuine school with a phenomenal academic and spiritual reputation."
Andrew Runion / Fishers, IN / Fishers HS
Available Times: 800-1:58, 1600-4:30, 3200-9:50, 5k-16:04
Runion lettered for Fishers in cross country and track, earning All-Indiana honors in the 4x800-meter relay with a fifth-place showing at the state meet.
Runion is the son of Frank and Michelle Runion and will major in accounting at Taylor. Runion graduated from Fishers High with an Academic Honors Diploma and was a two-time Academic All-Indiana performer for the Tigers.
"I chose Taylor because of the community I experienced on my visit," said Runion. "I also like the atmosphere and competition of the track and cross country teams."