Back-to-back Iowa Conference champions (2012, 2013)
PELLA—The Central College men’s cross country team swept the top four spots and cruised to a season-opening win in the four-team Dutch Invitational Saturday powered by an individual victory from sophomore Eli Horton (Runnells, Southeast Polk HS). The Central women were second in a three-team field, with senior Mel McDermott (Britt, West Hancock HS) leading the way in fifth place.
Horton crossed the finish line of the 6,000-meter course at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex in 19 minutes, 17 seconds while McDermott clocked 20:29.2 over the 5,000-meter course. The Dutch men tallied only 16 points, just one point away from a perfect score, to capture the team title. Central’s women accumulated 47 points to take runner-up honors to Iowa Central (16 points).
Dutch men dominate—After Horton, the Central men wasted little time securing the victory. Freshman Cole Decker (Des Moines, West Des Moines Dowling HS) was next across the line (19:29.4) with Brent Ewing (junior, Cincinnati, Centerville HS) taking third (19:31.7) and Drew Jackson (sophomore, Johnston) taking fourth (19:44.2).
“It was nice to see Eli pick up where he left off last year,” said coach Joe Dunham. “He’s a confident runner right now.
Dunham also cited the other top finishers.
“Cole looked much more mature than most freshman in his first collegiate race,” said Dunham. “And both Brent and Drew had big summers and are poised for a lot of success this fall.”
Austin O’Brien (junior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) rounded out the Dutch scorers in sixth (20:02.7) while Tim Shepherd (sophomore, Knoxville) and Cody Doughan (junior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) finish in tenth (20:17.2) and eleventh (20:21.6) respectively.
“Our men had a great overall team effort,” said Dunham. “This is just the beginning of a long process for the upcoming season and I’m pleased with how we’ve started.”
McDermott leads women—After a strong finish from McDermott, Central’s varsity squad looked similar to last year, but saw an uptick in their results. Five of the top six returners recorded faster marks than last fall, especially impressive considering the conservative race strategy.
“We have a fairly young team so one of our goals is learn how to run in a pack,” said associate head coach Stephen Fyfe. “They were intentionally conservative through two kilometers and then let them get after it.”
Shelby Mendoza (junior, Norwalk) was the second Dutch runners across the line in eighth (20:55.5) with Alyssa Eaves (sophomore, Johnston) close behind in ninth (20:58.9). Emma Nelson (junior, Pekin) and Amanda Dunkin (junior, Pella) rounded out the Central scorers in 12th (21:33.9) and 13th (21:40.1) respectively while freshman Molly Bramble (freshman, Waukee) was 14th (21:48.5) and Mallory Welk (freshman, De Pere, Wis.) was 16th (22:08.6). Iowa Central’s Fiona McKenna took the individual win in a time of 19:52.1.
“I thought it was a good promising performance from our women,” said Dunham. “We have a starting point and it is definitely something to build on.”
Fyfe also cited big jumps from Eaves and Nelson
“Alyssa and Emma were quite a bit better than last year,” said Fyfe. “Both of them should be solid contributors for us this fall.”
The Dutch will race again at the Grinnell Les Duke Invitational next Saturday. Races are slated to begin at 10 a.m.
“We’re excited about the Grinnell meet,” said Dunham. “We haven’t been there for a few years but some of the top teams from the region will be there.”