Saturday, October 31, 2015

Northfield Teams Defend their MIAC Team Titles

It was Northfield against the Saints for the MIAC cross country team titles on a soggy Como Golf course Saturday afternoon.  The Northfield teams ran off with the men's(St.Olaf) and women's(Carleton) crowns while St. Thomas was second in the woman's race and St. John's was runner-up in the men's.

St. Olaf senior Jake Campbell won the men's individual title in 25:36.1 for 8K, eight and a half seconds faster than runner-up Hart Horner.  Kimber Meyer, a junior at Macalester, ran away with the women's race finishing in 22:14.2, more than 20 seconds up on Bethel sophomore Annika Halverson.

An overnight rain left the course slippery in spots and the footing "heavy." A number of runners fell in the first 100 yards of the men's race, mandating an automatic recall and restart.  When the field got away cleanly, Hornor took the lead and pressed the pace. The St.Olaf duo Calvin Lehn and Campbell, Bethel's Matt Berens, and St. Thomas' Jake Gerhartz trailed within striking distance with Berens making the first attempt to drive for home on the course's last loop.
Hornor(395), Lehn(53), Campbell, (333), Berens(364), and Gerhartz(78).
Photo by Gene Niemi
Berens, who was coming off two seasons curtailed by injuries, said that the footing on that final lap  seemed more treacherous  than the rest of the course and that he found it difficult to generate enough speed or finish with a good kick.  Hornor said that the footing felt "heavy" for the entire course and try as he might, he wasn't able to open a lasting gap on the field.

"I was happy to be able to run with them(the front pack) finally," Berens said said of the impact of his past injuries on his ability to run up front.  He had laid off Horner's pace the first 2K of the race, but was in with the lead pack as they made the ascent of the race's first big hill that, in winter, is the Como Park downhill ski site.

The lead pack shifted around behind Horner until  the race's final loop when Berens and Hornor had a slight gap over Campbell.  Berens briefly took the lead entering the final 1K of the race, but then Campbell made the decisive move, passing both Berens and Hornor.

"I was running scared the whole race," said Campbell. "(Coming down the home straight) I got up on my toes," said Campbell, noting that he was trying to squeeze out every ounce of speed he possessed.  Neither Berens nor Horner could match Campbell's miler speed, as he seemingly widened the gap between himself and the pair with every stride.

Packing four runners in the top ten helped give St. Olaf a comfortable win over St. John's.  It's the fourth consecutive men's team title for St. Olaf.  The Johnnies were one of several teams that could reach team scores around 85 to 100+ points, said their coach Tim Miles.  They scored 96 to Carleton's 99 to secure the runner up spot.

The women's race was not as full of ebbs and flows.  Carleton senior Ruth Steinke, a front runner like Hornor, took the lead and was setting the pace.  Steinke has worn a sleeve on her right knee for support.   She has a slight strain in the knee's connective tissue, her coach Donna Ricks said, and they didn't want to risk aggravating on the slippery grass without the support of the sleeve.
Kimber Meyer(16), Ruth Steinke(49), and Annika Halverson(18) 
push the pace.  Photo by Gene Niemi
Meyer also had a minor issue she didn't want to make worse, her hamstring, which wasn't 100%.  Meyer's solution was to be conservative early and gradually pick up the pace as the race progressed.  Near the race's halfway mark she began to take command and, she began to open a significant gap on her rivals going downhill, she pushed the pace harder in an attempt to increase her lead.  Halvorson couldn't match Meyer's acceleration, and Steinke slipped to fourth place as Meyer ran to a comfortable victory.

Carleton's women packed four women in the top 14 with their fifth, sixth, and seventh runners placing  23rd, 24th, and 26th to earn their third consecutive MIAC women's title.  St. Thomas had a similarly strong top seven, but their top four trailed Carleton's, scoring 52 points to Carleton's 38.

For Macalester's Meyer it's on to see what she can do in the Regionals, where she hopes to qualify for the NCAA DIII Nationals before she faces an even more ambitious adventure.  Next term, Meyer will be studying abroad, in Botswana.  A biology and public health student at Macalester, Meyer will be doing work in those fields in Southern Africa. 

For Meyer, as one season's running winds down, another journey will soon begin.

No comments: