Back-to-back Iowa Conference champions (2012, 2013)
PELLA—Central College is set to host Saturday’s Iowa Conference women’s and men’s cross country championships at 11 a.m. and noon, respectively, at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex course.
The women’s race will cover 6,000 meters, while the men will run 8,000 meters.
Dutch men run for repeat—The Dutch men, ranked No. 9 in the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Association Division III poll, are running for a conference championship repeat.
Last season Central ran away with its first-ever league crown with runners finishing 1-2-3. The Dutch, who return all five scorers, posted the lowest point total (33) of any team at the championship since 2009 and finished 17 points ahead of runner-up Loras. Eli Horton (junior, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) claimed the 8,000-meter individual title—the first Dutch conference champion since 1994—in 25:21.5 and was one of four Central runners to earn all-league honors. Cole Decker (sophomore, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) was second, Drew Jackson (junior, Johnston) was third and Austin O’Brien (senior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) was ninth. Brett Ewing (senior, Cincinnati, Centerville HS) was Central’s fifth runner in 18th. The Dutch went on to finish 12th of 32 teams at the NCAA Division III national championship meet.
While O’Brien was Central’s No. 4 runner at last year’s meet, he posted Central’s low time at all three meets he’s competed in this season and has twice been named the conference performer of the week. He won the Central Dutch Invitational (Sept. 7), placed third at the Wis.-Eau Claire Blugold Invitational (Oct. 4) and second at the Wis.-La Crosse Jim Drews Invitational (Oct. 19), where he ran a season-best 24:48.6.
As a team the Dutch have three top-three finishes at those three meets and have never finished outside the top half, despite dealing with injuries to key runners.
Luther and Loras are ranked at Nos. 24 and 28, respectively while Wartburg is among those receiving votes. All are expected to contend for Saturday’s crown.
Central women peaking at right time—The Dutch women are peaking in performance at the right time in hopes of improving their standing at the conference championship.
Last season all Central runners posted second-best times of the season en route to 98 points and a fourth-place finish. This year’s returnees include Emma Nelson (senior, Pekin), who finished 17th in 23:40, and Alyssa Eaves (junior, Johnston), who finished 25th in 23:55.
Eaves has been the top Dutch finisher at all four invitationals this season. She posted season-best 23:31.6 on the 6,000-meter course at the Wis.-La Crosse Tori Neubauer Invitational Oct. 19, where she placed 61st in the 471-individual field.
Central's best showing was a runner-up finish at its own invitational Sept. 7.
Wartburg is the only ranked team in the conference at No. 3.