Back-to-back Iowa Conference champions (2012, 2013)
ST. PAUL, MINN.—The Central College men’s and women’s cross country teams were led by Eli Horton (sophomore, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) and Mel McDermott (senior, Britt, West Hancock HS) at the University of Minn. Roy Griak Invitational Saturday morning.
Men narrowly miss awards stand—In a field loaded with nationally-ranked squads, the Dutch men placed fourth in a tight race for a top-three trophy. Central scored 103 points, just behind Wis.-Platteville (102) and Wis.-Eau Claire (96). Wis.-La Crosse won the title with 45 points in the 27-team field.
“I thought the men executed our race strategy well,” said head coach Joe Dunham. “This race was especially challenging because of the field size, but they handled it well and it was a good learning experience.”
Horton was the top Dutch finisher, claiming sixth-place with a finishing time of 26 minutes, 4.1 seconds on the 8,000-meter course. Freshman Cole Decker (Des Moines, West Des Moines Dowling HS) also ran with the lead pack for much of the race and crossed the line in 12th (26:11.9).
“Eli and Cole have been running well,” said Dunham. “It’s nice to have that consistency at the top of your lineup.”
Austin O’Brien (junior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) used a strong second half to take 17th (26:24.3), while Drew Jackson (sophomore, Johnston) was 31st (26:46.3) and Brent Ewing (junior, Cincinnati, Centerville HS) was 37th (26:58.7). Sloan Beninga (freshman, Stout, Dike-New Hartford HS) and Cody Doughan (junior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) placed 57th (27:30.9) and 60th (27:32.5) respectively to round out the varsity scorers.
“I also thought Austin (O’Brien) and Sloan (Beninga) had great races,” said Dunham. “They really stepped up when we needed them to.”
Tim Nelson of Wis.-Stout was the individual champion in a time of 25:32.9.
McDermott leads Dutch—McDermott the top finisher again for the Dutch, covering the 6,000-meter course in a time of 24:11 to place 43rd. Emma Nelson (junior, Pekin) took 60th (24:30.9) with Alyssa Eaves (sophomore, Johnston) finishing in 82nd (24:57.1). Amanda Duncan (junior, Pella) was 107th (25:36.8) and Daphne Baumgartner (junior, Perry) was 116th (25:50.3), while Elin Phipps (freshman, Boone) and Mallory Carr (sophomore, De Pere, Wis.) took 129th (26:13.4) and 136th (26:25.8) respectively.
Wis.-Eau Claire won the women’s competition with 95 points while the Dutch scored 408 to place 15th in the 29-team field. Linda Keller of Minn.-Morris took the individual title in a time of 21:48.9.
“The women competed well,” said Dunham. “Emma ran a fantastic race and it is nice to see Daphne improving.”
Associate head coach Stephen Fyfe was pleased with the effort under the circumstances. Both Shelby Mendoza (junior, Norwalk) and Molly Bramble (freshman, Waukee) didn’t toe the line because of illness.
“It’s tough when you don’t have two of your top-seven runners at big meet like this,” said Fyfe. “But the team we put out there responded well to the big environment. They didn’t get carried away at the beginning and moved up well throughout the race.”
The Dutch are off next weekend and will travel to West Salem, Wis. for the Wis.-La Crosse Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational Oct. 13.
“We’re looking forward to the meet at La Crosse,” said Dunham. “It will be similar to Griak in terms of the number and quality of teams. We need to put our squads in tough situations to get better.”