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Northwestern grad helps EKU reach new heights

The bus ride home from regionals in Virginia was one with just a tad of uncertainty. History was in the Eastern Kentucky University women’s cross-country team’s grasp.

After placing third as a team in the Southeast Regionals, one place away from an automatic berth to NCAAs, the Colonels’ status was a bit unclear. While Eastern Kentucky certainly felt it did enough in the regular season to warrant one of the 13 at-large bids to nationals, it wasn’t a sure bet.

“We kind of had a good idea that if we got third we would be in a good position to get through based off who we’ve beaten throughout the regular season,” said EKU senior Haley Yost, a Northwestern Lehigh graduate. “But you just never know. You have to wait and see what other teams place first and second in their region.

“We had an idea on the bus that we were going. But you don’t actually get the confirmation until the next day.”

Eastern Kentucky got that confirmation on Nov. 11, writing history with the bid to NCAAs. It was the first time an Eastern Kentucky team or a women’s cross-country program from the Ohio Valley Conference qualified for the NCAA Division I Championships.

And Yost, a former PIAA state medalist runner, was a part of writing that history for the Colonels.

“For cross-country it was bittersweet at the end,” Yost said. “But I feel like as a team, the girls that I came in with my freshman year, our goal was to make it to nationals by our senior year. I feel like we went out at the top level that we could.”

Yost finished as the fifth-fastest Colonel at NCAAs, as Eastern Kentucky placed 23rd out of 31 teams competing. Individually, Yost placed 191st in 21:27.3.

Rounding out Eastern Kentucky’s top finishers were Junior Charlotte Imer (52nd), senior Luisa Boschan (103rd), sophomore Lilian Jeptoo Kiborus (156th) and junior Gladys Cheruiyot (182nd). Imer was named the OVC’s Female Runner of the Year.

“It was definitely surreal,” Yost said. “I had a moment during the race where I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I am racing the cross-country championships right now.’ You don’t fully wrap your mind around it I think until after it is done. We made it. We deserved to be there.

“Being the first ever EKU women’s team to qualify for the national meet, there is no better way that we could end the season, and our cross-country careers, as a group.”

When Yost and the rest of this senior class stepped on Eastern Kentucky’s campus as freshmen, they set a goal to reach NCAAs by their senior season. That was only part of the history the Colonels wrote this year.

Eastern Kentucky won its sixth straight OVC Championship in convincing style. The Colonels were the first women’s team since Samford’s 2004 squad to place the top five runners and earn a perfect score.

Yost, an OVC First Team honoree, placed fifth in a time of 17:27.0. Her teammate, Imer, cruised to win in 16:52.3.

“It’s kind of fun to go and see what we can do,” Yost said. “Like this year for example, it kind of felt like how good could we do? Can we get the perfect score? Let’s keep making this history as we’re going. It was our first time getting ranked nationally as a team. And then we kind of kept that historic season going.”

Yost also earned Academic All-American as a senior.

Up next for Yost is winter and spring track and field seasons. The winter season begins on January 12 with the Kentucky Invitational. Yost will mainly run the 800-meter and mile runs in indoor, and the 1500 and 800-meter runs during the outdoor season.

Haley Yost (facing camera, right) and her Eastern Kentucky teammates get fired up before running in the NCAA Division I championship meet. PHOTO COURTESY OF EKU ATHLETICS
PHOTO COURTESY OF EKU ATHLETICSHaley Yost went to Eastern Kentucky with hopes of running in a national championship meet. That goal was acheived in her senior season.