1981 NCAA Div. III champions
CLEVELAND, OHIO—After qualifying for the NCAA Division III national championship for the first time in 27 years, the Central College women’s cross country team delivered another milestone performance Saturday, placing 19th in the 32-team field.
Unranked in the national poll until a week ago, the Dutch grabbed the No. 29 spot in the rankings after a surprising fourth-place finish in the Central Regional championships Nov. 14. Despite not having a runner place in the top 60 on Saturday, Central rode its depth to surprise the pollsters after accumulating 468 points. No.-2 ranked Wis.-Eau Claire won the women’s title with 171 points, only nine points ahead of runner-up St. Lawrence (N.Y.). Iowa Conference champion Wartburg, ranked 20th, placed 16th with 447 points, only 21 in front of the Dutch.
“This is a big step for our program,” said first-year coach Joe Dunham. “It’s definitely a tribute to our runners. There was no one runner that stood out today and it’s been that way the entire season. It was a complete team effort.”
Amber Mayer (senior, Essex, Shenandoah HS) was Central’s top finisher for the second straight week, crossing the line in 23:18, good for 68th place on the 6,000-meter course. Three-time cross country national qualifier Angie Berry (senior, Norwalk) was 93rd (23:33.5), Hannah Anderson (senior, Goodell, Garner-Hayfield HS) finished in 115th (23:45.2), Amy Ledvina (senior, Toledo, South Tama HS) was 161st (24:09.4) and Mel McDermott (freshman, Britt, West Hancock HS) rounded out Central’s scorers with a 220th-place finish (24:52.3). Melanie Louis (sophomore, Davenport, Central HS) and Rachelle Tipton (senior, Newton) were 231st (25:03.4) and 269th (25:53.5), respectively. Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence won the individual title, besting the field by over 17 seconds. Central’s score was the aggregate of the finishing places scored without individual qualifiers (468 – 46, 61, 77, 114, 170).
Temperatures were in the mid-50s at race time with only a slight breeze. However, muddy conditions on the Highland Hills golf course slowed the field and prevented any career or seasonal bests from being set.
“It was pretty sloppy out there,” said Dunham. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a fast race. Besides that, the conditions were ideal.”
Saturday’s meet marked the final cross country race of their careers for many of the top Dutch runners. Central relied heavily upon their seniors this fall, with no fewer than four seniors placing in the top five at any meet during the season.
“It’s a great way for these seniors to go out,” said Dunham “To run and to run well at the national meet is a great experience. Our goal was to finish in the top 20. I think we surprised a lot of people today.”
With the end of the cross country season, the squad will be off until January and the beginning of the indoor track campaign. Dunham is eagerly anticipating more good results from this group in the spring.
“Having the confidence to run at the national level for these athletes will be great,” said Dunham. “It’s easy for a coach to tell them that they are good, but for them to actually have this kind of success will pay dividends for them in the future.”