‘Sloppy mess’ results in top finishes

By Audrey Miller

DUBUQUE, IA. – In typical European cross country fashion, the annual American Rivers Conference (ARC) championships last Saturday looked more like a mud run than a prestigious championship. This fateful day of racing took place last Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Dubuque Soccer Complex. This year, it was the University of Dubuque’s turn to host the championship meet, and the Duhawks reaped the benefit of racing in town on a familiar course. Although the Duhawks’ home meet at the soccer complex was cancelled this year due to weather, the team received the opportunity to practice on the course prior to the big day. This gave them ample time to get to know the course and feel comfortable with the conditions.

Unfortunately, due to heavy precipitation in the form of snow, the Dubuque Soccer Complex absorbed a significant amount of water, becoming a sloppy mess in the days leading up to the meet. On Friday, when all the conference teams arrived at the course, they were greeted with snow, slippery conditions and lots of mud. After a difficult meeting, the ARC Conference & Games Committee decided to cut out one hilly section of the course due to the threat of injury which the segment posed. After this decision, the championship course became a series of loops around the soccer complex, rather than including the woodsy trail segment. The men’s course remained an 8k; the women’s course was cut short by 1k to go from a championship distance of 6k to a 5k race.

“The course changes were frustrating for me, but it’s important to demonstrate to the team, especially the younger girls, that we were prepared,” said senior women’s team captain Molly MacDuff. “Ultimately, the distance we ran wasn’t going to matter because of the amount of effort and hard work each woman has put in since June. “

Although the course changes were less than ideal for the Duhawks—who thrive on the hills due to their extensive hill training, and which would have given them a “leg up” on the other teams at the conference meet—they did reap the benefit of having a meet at home. Home field advantage meant that there would be a lot of Loras supporters at the conference championship this year.

“The highlight of the meet was most definitely the finish,” MacDuff said. “Hearing so many people cheering for the Duhawks [in] the last 150 meters was a powerful experience. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to run at our home course and the turn-out of Duhawk supporters was unbelievable. I’m very blessed and thankful that so many Duhawks made it out despite the conditions.”

The men’s race took place first, with the gun going off at 11 a.m. It was a grueling race for the Duhawks—with no “personal records” set at the course, due to the conditions—but the men toughed it out and finished third in the conference behind Wartburg and Luther. Leading the way for the Duhawks was sophomore Luke Guttormson, with a time of 27:47.9. Guttormson came in 11 place, allowing him to earn his first All-Conference honor, bestowed upon the top 15 in each race.

Next to cross the line was junior Joey Schultz with a time of 28:08.1. Following Schultz was senior captain Tyler Havens, with a time of 28:18.5. The final two scoring Duhawks were seniors Patrick Wolak (28:20.8) and Logan Hayes (28:32.7).

“I feel like it was mixed results in how we handled the conditions,” said Wolak. “Many did really well, considering the conditions, but I think some of us really had trouble with the crazy conditions. I was disappointed with how I performed, [as] I finished well behind where I have finished all year, but I was really happy how others in the team were able to battle in those tough conditions.”

Senior varsity runner Havens was one of those teammates who was able to battle the tough conditions with grace.

“Personally, I believe I ran my best race of the season and was satisfied with where I placed,” Havens said. “The highlight of the meet for me was giving a hug to each of my teammates as they came across the line, many of them for the last time. I am still optimistic about our chances for performing well at regionals and qualifying for nationals. Our best team race this season was at Wartburg and we will be retuning there for regionals.”

Following the men’s race, the women’s race began at noon. Since the men raced their five-lap course first, the women were faced with a torn-up, muddy trek as their three-lap championship course. However, this did not deter the women from putting up a good fight. Sophomore Kassie Rosenbum came in first for the Duhawks, crossing the line with a time of 19:27.2. This time secured a second-place finish in the race and an All-Conference honor for Rosenbum. Coming in behind Rosenbum in third place was senior Audrey Miller, with a time of 19:56.5, also securing another All-Conference honor. The third Duhawk to cross the line and achieve an All-Conference honor was sophomore Kaylee Osterberger, with a time of 20:50.2. Following Osterberger as the final two scorers on the team were sophomore Cam Reeg (21:09.7) and senior Maeve Dunaway (21:16.0), placing 22 and 24, respectively.

“I felt that this was a very good meet and that we are improving each week,” said assistant coach Ethan Adlfinger. “Having three medalists was something I felt we could achieve on a good day. Our 1-5 and 1-7 split has continued to shrink each week which is a sign we are getting better and better as a team.”

The course conditions certainly posed some issues with pacing, but fortunately, the women’s team was well-equipped for tough situations like Saturday’s race.

“Pack running is something that we practice on a daily basis, and I think this showed on Saturday,” MacDuff said. “We did an excellent job of staying consistent, moving up throughout the race, and running with our teammates.”

Pack running—or teammates running together—is highly valued on both the men’s and women’s cross country teams. For the women, this helped many Duhawks battle through the conditions on Saturday. At the end of the 5k race, the women’s team ended up in third place behind Wartburg and Luther.

“Conference was the first team performance goal of the season,” said Adlfinger. “The goal for both genders was a top-2 finish. Finishing 3rd, we were just outside the season goal, but the ARC is a challenging conference and both Wartburg and Luther ran terrific races ahead of us. We can only control our performances and that is what I hope the team continues to focus on the next few weeks.”

While the teams fell a little short of their goals, the Duhawks still had a great time battling against the course and running with their teammates for the last time this season–and, for some seniors, the last time in their entire career.

“Although our conference race was a battle against the course, we, as a team, conquered it,” said senior runner Averi Leitzen. “With this being my last cross country race ever, having the opportunity to run on a home course with a Loras crowd was unforgettable. The highlight of yesterday’s meet, for me, was crossing the finish line and being swarmed with hugs from my family and teammates, who understand and have been through the hard work that has gotten us to this point in the season. I am incredibly proud of my teammates and how we raced yesterday, and I couldn’t be more excited to cheer my super speedy teammates on the rest of this championship season.”

Next up for the Duhawks will be the regional championships on Saturday, Nov. 16, in Waverly, IA. This race will dictate what teams move on to the National NCAA DIII Cross Country Championships in Louisville, KY, on Nov. 23.

“We have a really strong varsity squad this year,” said MacDuff, regarding the team’s outlook at the regional meet. “I think we have the potential to run a tough regional race and qualify for nationals. Especially after the conditions of the conference meet, I know that the regional course will feel much smoother. There will be some fast times and PR’s for sure.”

The regional championship races will begin at 11 a.m. on Nov. 16. This will be an important day for the Duhawks and solidify their ability to move forward in the championship season.

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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