Over the weekend the Loras College Duhawks competed in the NCAA Central Region Cross Country Championships in Pella, Iowa. One of the cross-country teams ended the race in relief while the other ended on a bittersweet note.
The women’s cross country team ended their season at Regionals with a fourth place finish. Only three women’s teams from the Central Region advanced to the National meet, and unfortunately, the Duhawks weren’t one of them. First year Audrey Miller led the team with a 16th place finish while senior Maggie Saenz Ruiz and junior Emily Day were the next two Duhawks in the chute at 23rd and 33rd, respectively. These finishes earned the women All-Region status. Unfortunately for Saenz Ruiz, last weekend was her final race as a Duhawk in cross country. Because of that, she had a few words of thanks to say.
“GRACIAS!” she started off directed at her team. “You have become a genuine human family within my life. You have supported me unconditionally and have allowed me to develop as a unique athlete and human being.”
Saenz Ruiz was not a recruit for cross country; in fact, she came here for school and for soccer. During her sophomore year, she switched to cross country and has immensely helped the team ever since.
“I feel entirely grateful for the Loras College community, especially for Bob Schultz, Coach Jones, and my team because they allowed me to offer my gifts and talents through the joy of distance running. I feel completely honored to be a unique member of the cross-country team,” Saenz Ruiz said, reflecting on her final season.
On a lighter note, the men’s cross country team tied for second place out of 29 teams. Unfortunately, they lost the tiebreaker to Central College, meaning the Duhawks didn’t receive an automatic qualifying bid for Nationals. However, after the qualifiers were released Sunday afternoon, the Duhawks advanced to the NCAA Championship meet. Three Duhawks earned All-Region, or top 35, on Saturday: Timothy Sevcik, Mason Tope and John Paul Sevcik.
Leading the team once again was sophomore Timothy Sevcik. Continuing with his outstanding season, he finished fifth in the region running a time of 25:34.
“I thought the race went really well. We let the other teams get out too fast,” said Sevick.
At the first mile, there was only one Duhawk in the top 25; at the finish, there were three in the top 22.
“We just relaxed at the start. When everyone else settled down or died, we maintained our pace and started passing them,” said Sevick.
It also helped that he had a teammate with him the whole time. Sophomore Mason Tope, the second runner for the Duhawks, was sixth overall and with Sevcik every step of the way.
“I am always so thankful to have Timothy right there with me through the end, and I love knowing I can trust him to be right by me,” Tope said.
He talked a little bit about the last mile of the race, too. They were third and fourth going into the final stretch.
“The two runners behind us were on our tail and passed us with 1K to go. They passed hard and with speed so that we felt we could not pass them again. We kept them in sight, but it became about Timothy and I finishing,” said Mason.
However, the bond these two teammates had turned it into a fun competition.
“It didn’t matter who finished first. It was just about who had that last surge. (Timothy) and I battled back and forth before he was victorious at the end.”
After achieving their goal of racing at the National meet, these two have some words of encouragement for their teammates.
“Let’s kick some butt. We’ve been kicking butt all year long with our team, and we’re ready to finally take our prize at Nationals. All of us together have worked for this for so long, mile after mile together and alone. We have a full team of good runners. We don’t need to focus on beating Central, like (Coach Schultz) said, we just gotta focus on running our race,” said Tope.
“We’ve got one more week, so don’t be stupid. Except your Natty’s mustaches, those can look ridiculous. Limit your Halo 5 time, avoid the Cafe cookies, and stay away from sick people. Get to bed on time. Don’t bump up mileage two days before nationals. Now let’s go make President Jim Collins and the rest of Loras smile!” said Sevcik in regards to his advice for the last week of training.
Congratulations to the women for an excellent season, and good luck to the men at Nationals in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 21.