Men’s cross-country places 9th at national championship

On Nov. 11, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams headed to Northfield, MN, for the NCAA Central Regional. Being the only team to finish all seven runners within the top 50, the men continued their successful season and repeated as NCAA Region Champions. Winning the sixth of the seven races, they competed in this season with only 53 points. This win earned them an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Photo courtesy of Loras College Athletics. Senior Mason Tope strides ahead of his opponents, leading the pack as one of Loras’ top three finishers.

“Three runners in the top six and then six All-Region runners was great to see,” said Head Coach Robert Schultz. “I couldn’t have asked for more from these young men.”

Leading the Duhawk men was senior O’Brien Nugent, fourth overall, with a time of 24:57.7. His time was fast enough to earn him a spot in the top-10 all-time at Loras for the 8K. Also earning All-Region honors were seniors Timothy Sevcik (25:05.1), Mason Tope (25:12.8), Justin Adams (25:34.9) and sophomore Patrick Wolak (25:43.6), and rounding out the top seven were juniors Jack Carroll (25:48.9) and Preston Kauder (26:12.8).

The women completed their season with four Duhawks making lifetime PR’s and racing to a 12th-place finish with 340 points.

“I was really happy with how our women finished the season,” said Schultz. “We raced well and ended the season on a high note. With just one senior in our top seven, the future is bright for this team.”

Leading the Duhawk pack for the second time and placing 48th overall was first-year Kristan Brown with a time of 23:25.3 for the 6k race. Following behind were senior Kelly Minear (23:49.5), junior Kemunto Ondande (23:58.3), sophomore Brianna Bower (24:01.4), junior Liz Venezio (24:07.0), sophomore Averi Leitzen (24:37.2) and first-year Courtney Knight (24:47.8).

Returning to Elsah, IL, for the NCAA Championships on Saturday, Nov. 18, the Duhawk men completed their last race of the season finishing the highest they ever have in school history with an impressive ninth place finish, scoring 301 points. Being ranked sixth, their performance was not quite as everyone had hoped.

“I don’t think any of the guys were pleased with the team results,” Schultz said. “Obviously, it was terrific to see Timothy and Mason get recognized as All-Americans … The Duhawks pushed through some obstacles that could have been devastating.”

Earning All-American honors were Sevcik placing 36th with a time of 24:56.28 and Tope placing 40th with a time of 25:00.46. Tope became the first in Loras’ cross country program to be a three-time All American. Following behind were Nugent (25:16.13), Carroll (25:41.88), Adams (25:45.43), Wolak (26:11.08) and Kauder (26:14.62).

“Justin had pneumonia and didn’t finish as well as he hoped. He’s one of the toughest guys I have ever coached. I didn’t even know about it until after the race, and he still held on to be our fifth man and final scorer,” said Schultz

The senior class achieved four Iowa Conference Championships and made four appearances to the NCAA Championships during their cross country career, leading the team to 18 wins with 11 of them being in the last two seasons.

“I am incredibly proud of our season and our senior class,” said Sevcik. “There are not many teams that can claim to have done what we have. (We had) four straight years as conference champs. Winning conference is all we’ve ever known. (We were) two time regional champs and had the highest finish in school history at nationals. It speaks a lot about the program, Bob’s training and our team’s dedication.”

Looking to next season, the Duhawks return three of their top seven: Carroll, Kauder and Wolak.

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Brianna is a sports writer for The Lorian.

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