Back-to-back Iowa Conference champions (2012, 2013)
NORTHFIELD, MINN. — Eli Horton (junior, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) not only garnered an NCAA Division III Central Region championship with a career-best run Saturday, he pushed the Dutch to a second-place finish in a 26-team field and a return trip to the Division III finals.
The 32-team national meet will be staged next Saturday at Hanover, Ind. It’s the fifth NCAA national team berth for the Dutch, who made their first appearance in 32 years last season, tying for an all-time best 12th place.
The Central women placed 16th in a 27-team regional field Saturday.
Horton wins the region—Also second at last year’s regional meet, the Dutch finished behind No. 3 St. Olaf (Minn.), the host school, which finished with 51 points to Central’s 61. which took the team title (51) in a field of 26 teams. No. 28 Luther College was a distant third with 127, followed by Carleton (Minn.) and No. 22 Loras. The top two teams receive automatic berths in the national meet while others are left hoping for one of 16 at-large bids.
Five Dutch runners earned all-region honors. Horton’s first-place finish of 24 minutes, 35.97 seconds on the 8,000-meter course is his career-best and is the first individual regional champion in school history. Horton was second at the regional meet last year and placed second at the Iowa Conference meet Nov. 2 in Pella, behind teammate Austin O’Brien (senior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS), the league MVP.
“I’m so proud of Eli for winning the region,” said coach Joe Dunham. “It’s such a great accomplishment for him.”
O’Brien was fourth in 24:51.12, crossing the line 17 places higher than the previous year. Cole Decker (sophomore, Des Moines, West Des Moines Dowling HS) took eighth place (25:18.12) while teammate Drew Jackson (junior, Johnston) was 13th with a season best 25:28.77, jumping six spots from the 2012 race. The top-35 runners receive all-region citations, and Iasaac Steffensmeier (freshman, St. Paul, Fort Madison HS) narrowly made the cut in 35th place (26:11.77). Jamie Vander Veer (junior, Knoxville) and Brent Ewing (senior, Cincinnati, Centerville HS) rounded out the Dutch squad in 44th (26:25.52) and 56th (26:36.97) places, respectively.
“All seven of our men gave a great effort,” Dunham said. “We are pleased to get the chance to compete at the NCAA championships again this year and to represent the Dutch.
“It’s speaks very highly of our top five who were all-region,” he continues. “The times were blistering fast. The front runners in this region are running at a high level right now.”
Eaves wins all-region honors for women—Junior Alyssa Eaves (Johnston) claimed a career-best time of 23:30.14 and took 32nd place on the 6,000-meter course to earn all-region honors.
“We are extremely proud of Alyssa, and very impressed with her effort today,” said Dunham.
Kasey Wiedmaier (freshman, Indianola) and Daphne Baumgartner (senior, Perry) also finished with career bests in 59th (23:55.39) and 66th (23:39.79), respectively. Emma Nelson (senior, Pekin) was 93rd (24:26.94), Gabi Wilson (sophomore, Des Moines, Des Moines Christian HS) placed 107th (24:37.54), Maleaha Earnest (freshman, Hedrick, Pekin HS) was 117th (24:54.59) and Molly Bramble (sophomore, Waukee) was 151st (25:42.79).
“The team had a good race in a field that has dramatically improved from last year,” Dunham said. “This is a great launching point for the future of this program. There is no doubt in my mind that this team in on the rise. I am very happy with their efforts.”
Wartburg grabbed the regional title with 86 points and Carleton took the other automatic bid to the national meet with 104 points. St. Scholastica’s (Minn.) Chelsea Johnston won the individual race in 21:10.99.