1981 NCAA Div. III champions
WAVERLY—Freshman Eli Horton (Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) turned in a career-best performance at the NCAA Central Regional championship cross country meet Saturday, finishing 10th and leading the Central College men to a ninth-place team finish. Mel McDermott (junior, Britt, West Hancock HS) earned all-region honors for her 35th-place finish while the women placed 12th overall.
Horton’s time of 25 minutes, 41 seconds over the 8,000-meter course placed him in contention for an individual berth in next weekend’s NCAA Division III championship meet in Oshkosh, Wis. The top seven individual in each region that are not on a qualifying team will be invited to compete. That time also pushed him up to 12th on Central’s all-time 8k performance list.
“Any time you can qualify for the national meet it is special, said head coach Joe Dunham. “But doing it as a freshman speaks volumes about his ability. He is talented, but more importantly he is extremely motivated.”
But before Horton can pack his bags for Oshkosh, at least one more Central Region team must be selected to advance to the championship meet. The top two squads in each region automatically move on, and the next three teams are placed in an at-large pool with teams from other regions. That field will be announced at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
Dutch men return to top-10—For the first time since 2006, the Central men are back in the top-10 of the Central Region. The Dutch equaled their ninth-place ranking in the coaches’ poll with 249 points and were only 11 points out of eighth and 13 points out of seventh in the 26-team field. Nebraska Wesleyan scored 93 and St. Olaf (Minn.) had 107 to take the top two automatic qualifying spots. Iowa Conference rivals Loras and Luther finished in fourth (141) and fifth (161) respectively. Wartburg was 10th (289) and Simpson was 11th (291).
“I thought the guys put forth an extremely bold effort today,” said Dunham. “They took some risks and it paid off. In a region that has gotten better since last year they showed significant improvement and we did it with mostly younger guys.”
After Horton, freshman teammate Drew Jackson (Johnston) narrowly missed all-region honors with his 36th-place finish (26:20). The top 35 finishers are awarded all-region status.
“Drew has shown a great ability to adjust to the collegiate level,” said Dunham. “Even with limited training this summer, he ran like an upperclassman in his first season at Central.”
Austin O’Brien (sophomore, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) was 59th (26:45), with Brent Ewing (sophomore, Cincinnati, Centerville HS) close behind in 64th (26:56). Brandon Clough (junior Marshalltown, GMG HS) placed 80th (27:10), with Cody Doughan (sophomore, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) and Andrew Hamer (senior, Murray) rounding out the Dutch squad in 97th (27:26) and 118th (27:49) respectively. Ben Sathre of St. Thomas (Minn.) repeated as the individual champion with a finishing time of 24:57.
“Andrew Hamer had a rough race today,” said Dunham. “But he has been a great leader for this team for four years. He will be missed.”
Central women make big jump—The Dutch women showed significant improvement, scoring 349 points to place 12th in the 27-team field after a disappointing 17th-place finish a year ago. Wartburg and Carleton (Minn.) took the automatic qualifying spots with 63 and 85 points respectively. Conference rival Luther was fifth with 155, Loras was ninth with 253, and Cornell was 14th with 404.
“It was nice to finally be able to have our varsity team run at full strength,” said associate head coach Stephen Fyfe.” And it showed in how we raced as a team. We had two good packs.”
In addition to earning all-region honors, McDermott’s time of 23:23 was a new personal best and placed her ninth on Central’s all-time 6k performance list.
“Having Mel back was a boost,” said Fyfe. “We were really hoping to go to the national meet this year, but she ran a personal best and was all-region, so it’s hard to be disappointed.”
Melanie Louis (senior, Davenport, Central HS) led the first chase pack of Dutch runners, finishing 60th in a time of 23:56. Teammates Emma Nelson (sophomore, Pekin) and Shelby Mendoza (sophomore, Norwalk) were close behind in 67th (24:05) and 72nd (24:09) respectively.
“It was nice to see Melanie have her best two races of her senior season in her last two meets,” said Fyfe. “Emma had a breakthrough race and she is starting to discover what she can do as a runner.”
Amanda Melcher (junior, Libertyville, Fairfield HS) led the second pack, finishing in 113th (24:59), with Alyssa Eaves (freshman, Johnston) taking 120th (25:06) and Mallory Welk (freshman, De Pere, Wis.) placing 128th (25:13) to round out the Dutch squad. Linda Keller of Minn.-Morris took the individual title in a time of 21:45.
The national meet, hosted by Wis.-Oshkosh, will be staged Saturday at the Lake Breeze Golf Club in Winneconne, Wis., with the women’s race starting at 11 a.m. and the men’s race at noon.