Cross Country Set for MVC Championship in Nashville
Thursday, October 26, 2023
Cross Country Set for MVC Championship in Nashville

A breakout season from senior Evan Walda (Fort Wayne, Ind. / South Side) may come as a surprise to some, but not to those closest to the Valparaiso University cross country program.

“We knew this was coming,” Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Vincent Walker said. “A lot of our competitors thought it was a shock, but he and I knew all summer long that something big was on the horizon. How big that could be was the question.”

That something turned out to be the 8K program record, as Walda’s most recent race saw him finish sixth in a large field of 232 student-athletes at the Bradley Pink Classic, stopping the clock in 24:22.90. That time shattered Alexander Bruno’s Valpo record that had stood since 2018.

“Evan came out of the gate swinging at the home meet, nearly going under 18 minutes in the 6K,” Walker said. “That set the tone. We took a couple stabs at the program record earlier in the year with big expectations at Notre Dame and Illinois State. At Bradley, we just went out and competed. The conditions were nasty and muddy and we were one of the last races of the day, so the course was torn up. Through 2K, he was in around 40th place, and he kept climbing each kilometer from there.”

Walda and fellow senior Simeon Ehm (Castle Rock, Colo. / Heritage) have been at the top of the lineup for a team that features significant young talent. The Valpo men were picked tied for eighth of 11 in the preseason poll and have surpassed two teams to be picked seventh in the pre-championship poll that was released this week.

“We beat conference teams at several meets this season and we’re ready to put all of the pieces together,” Walker said. “We always talk about how we want to be really good at this time of year. It’s fun to run fast through the regular season, but the most important part is how we do in late October and early November. I’d like to see us finish above where we were picked to set up for more success next year.”

The women’s team was picked 11th of 12 in both the preseason poll and pre-championship poll. Senior Grace Aurand (Highland, Ind. / Highland) continues to lead the team, while Lauren Wroza (Rochester, Mich. / Rochester) and Vivian Rahmel (Springfield, Ill. / Sacred Heart-Griffin) have enjoyed strong freshman campaigns.

“On the women’s side, I’d like to see us be able to climb the ladder a little bit,” Walker said. “I want to see us grow in The Valley and take that step up that our men’s program took last year. Grace is ready to have a giant breakthrough and has been knocking on that door all year. I think she’s ready to do something special. Lauren has been not far off from Grace as a true freshman, and she’s just scratching the surface of what she’s able to do. Vivian has had a really good freshman campaign as well.”

The 2023 Missouri Valley Conference Championship will take place on Friday, hosted by Belmont at Percy Warner Park (Vaughn’s Gap Cross Country Course) in Nashville. The women’s 6K will get underway at 10 a.m. CT, followed by the men’s 8K at 11 a.m. Both races will be broadcast on ESPN+ with Brad Wells (play-by-play) and Mike Mahon (analyst) on the call. Links to live video and results are available on