A bitter-sweet finish

By Audrey Miller

WAVERLY, IA. – On a blustery, thirty-degree day last weekend, the men and women’s cross country teams spiked up for what would be their final meet of the 2019 cross country season: the Central Region cross country championships. The meet was held on Saturday, Nov. 16, to dictate what teams would advance to the NCAA DIII National Championships in Louisville, KY, on Nov. 23. The men raced first at 11 a.m. and weren’t sure what to expect from the course, but were ready to finish their races on a high note after a disappointing conference championship only two weeks prior.

“I was glad by how our men’s team bounced back from conference,” said assistant coach Ethan Adlfinger. “The conference championships, in my opinion, left the group with a feeling of being kicked in the gut. It would have been much easier to mail in the season and give up. Instead, the group had a chip on their shoulder to come back and not end the season with a bad taste in their mouths.”

True to Adlfinger’s words, the men’s team showed up to the regional race with the knowledge that this would likely be the last race of the season, and they wanted to end on a high note. At the first mile, sophomore star Luke Guttormson led the Duhawks, followed closely by senior Patrick Wolak. At this point in the race, the men’s team was in 12 place of 28 teams; however, the Loras cross country team knows it is not where you are at the first mile that matters—it is the end. By the 3k mark, the team had moved into 10 place, and by the 5k—over halfway through the men’s 8k race—the men had moved up to 6 place, where they would stay for the remainder of the race.

“I am really proud of how well our men competed,” said head coach Bob Schultz. “They executed our race plan to perfection, which allowed us to have our best meet of the season. We had a great group of seniors this year and some of them, like Patrick Wolak, really stepped up and ended their careers on high notes. They should be really proud.”

Taking the win at the regional meet was Wartburg with 52 points. Closely following the Knights in second place was Carleton with 56 points. Third, fourth, and fifth places went to St. Olaf (108), St. Thomas (129), and Luther (152), respectively. The Duhawks remained in sixth place at the finish with 189 points. The top two finishing teams—Wartburg and Carleton—earned automatic bids to the national meet, while St. Olaf and St. Thomas only needed to wait one day until the NCAA Selection Sunday, when they garnered at-large bids to the national meet.

“We finished the season exactly where we were ranked,” noted Wolak. “When I crossed the line, the emotions immediately hit me that I had crossed the finish line of my last cross country race. Overall, I am very happy with my experience as a runner on the Loras cross country team. I have made lifelong friends and I will miss it very much.”

Finishing first for the Duhawks was Guttormson, who has been a frontrunner for the Duhawks all season. Guttormson moved up throughout the entire race, finishing in 25:48 for a seventh place finish. This allowed Guttormson to punch his own individual ticket to the national meet in Louisville, as the top seven finishers not on qualifying teams advance to the national meet as individual qualifiers.

Following Guttormson as the second runner on the team was Wolak, who finished near a qualifying place for the national championships, but was not quite close enough to punch his own ticket. Wolak finished in 24 place with a time of 26:15 which earned him an All-Region honor. Following Guttormson and Wolak in the race were the two men’s captains, senior Tyler Havens and junior Joey Schultz, as the team’s third and fourth runners. Havens finished in 46 with a time of 26:39 while Schultz finished immediately behind Havens in 47 with a time of 26:40. Senior Logan Hayes finished as the team’s fifth, with a place of 65th and time of 27:03. Finishing as the team’s sixth and seventh runners were seniors Cole Conklin-Little and Blake Keller in 87 and 88, respectively, with times only one second apart.

The women’s 6k race began at noon, with 209 women taking off from the starting line as the gun fired, signaling the beginning of the race. Within the first mile, the Duhawks had moved up to ninth place out of 30 teams. By the midway point, at the 3k, the Duhawks had moved up to fifth place. At the very end of the race, the women had finally moved up and secured their third place finish, narrowly beating fourth-place team St. Thomas, who was ranked sixteenth in the nation, and fifth-place team St. Olaf, who was ranked 24 in the nation.

Finishing first for the Duhawks and first in the race was junior Kassie Rosenbum, with her first regional title as a Duhawk. Rosenbum ran an exact 22-minute 6k, beating Wartburg’s second-place finisher by six seconds. This finish not only assisted the team in achieving their third-place finish, but also automatically punched Rosenbum’s ticket to nationals as an individual qualifier for the meet in Louisville.

“I am super proud of Kassie and her regional championship,” continued Schultz. “She ran a gutsy race and proved at the end of the day, she is the best runner in the region and one of the best runners in the country. I am also so proud and humbled by our super senior, Audrey Miller. The only reason she came back for an extra semester was to get our women’s team to the National Championship and, in my opinion, she did that. I am happy and satisfied that she gets to end her stellar career at the National Championship.”

Miller ran as the team’s number-two runner, finishing the race in seventh place with a time of 22:39. This place also secured an individual qualifying spot. Following Rosenbum and Miller was sophomore Kaylee Osterberger, placing 31 with a time of 23:42—securing her first All-Region honor. The next two scorers on the team were senior Maeve Dunaway, a reliable scorer for the Duhawks in 41 place with a time of 23:53, and junior Hannah Insko, a runner who, just a few weeks prior, was barely squeaking into the team’s top seven. At the regional meet, she played a large role with her 45 place finish in allowing the Duhawks to place third in the region. Rounding out the seven Loras runners were junior Emma Earles — running a time of 24:24 to garner 58 place — and sophomore Cam Reeg, who ran a time of 24:27 to place 59th.

The women’s team’s finish in the region is their highest finish since the women’s team last went to nationals in 1997. The coaches and team was optimistic that this place would get them an at-large bid into the national meet; however, it was not enough, and the women ended their season on Selection Sunday when the decision was made to give no at-large bids to the Central Region.

“This was a very bittersweet moment in coaching,” Adlfinger said about the final results. “It hurts to have such a great season ended prematurely, especially in the way that it did. At this point, I am choosing to focus on what a tremendous day Saturday was and the way our women performed. This will go down as one of the closest-knit teams I have been a part of and will be one of my favorites.”

Moving forward, the majority of the team will get a few weeks off before beginning training for the indoor track season. Only Guttormson, Rosenbum, and Miller will move on to the NCAA DIII national championship hosted by Spalding University in Louisville, KY, this upcoming weekend. The races takes place at 10:45 a.m. (men’s) and 11:45 a.m. (women’s) in Eastern Time, and there will be a live stream of the event on the FloTrack website.

“I’m looking forward to racing with my teammate Audrey and hoping for a personal record,” said Rosenbum, who is in the hunt for yet another national title after her win in the outdoor track and field 10k in May. “I’m saddened about the bid and definitely think our team wasn’t looked at enough this season for our work. With a young and still building team, we are just beginning and will be motivated to go again next year for nationals.”

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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