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ISSUE 118 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/5/2004

One-two punch ends title drought: Fulton, Richards lead men to first conference win since 76

By Anna Harrison
Staff Writer
and Julia Midthun
Staff Writer

Friday, November 5, 2004

Anticipation and anxieties ran high last week as the St. Olaf mens cross country team headed into the MIAC championships. The Oct. 30 race was an opportunity for the Oles to accomplish something they had not done in 28 years  win a conference title. The fact that longtime rival Carleton was the other main title contender only added to the tension and suspense.

Despite inclement weather, the sun did indeed shine upon the Oles Saturday as the men captured their first MIAC championship since 1976.

The weather around St. Pauls Como Park had been poor for several days prior to the race, making the course muddy and slick. The less-than-ideal conditions slowed overall times, but the Ole men were not to be deterred. Kelly Fulton 05 cruised to the finish line with a time of 26:10 to capture the individual title. Though he failed to complete the course with a personal best, this was Fultons first collegiate win in any cross-country race.

Though Fultons winning effort was outstanding, many other Oles also turned in exceptional races. Malcolm Richards 05 was right on Fultons heels, leading the race until the final 200 meters and finishing with a time of 26:15. Rounding out the top five for the Oles were 10th place finisher Tony Hoff 07 (27:08), Sam Hauck 06 (12th with 27:12) and Jason Havey 06 who crossed the line with a time of 27:42 to finish 18th overall. Fulton, Richards and Hauck were expected to do well as returning all-MIAC performers, but many unheralded Oles also came through to lift the team to victory.

Their conference championship was a much celebrated and long awaited accomplishment. Head coach Bill Thornton has been with the program for the past 32 years, and this is his second career conference win.

Despite Carletons superior national rank, the team was confident in its chances for victory.

Numbers-wise, it could have gone to Carleton, but we were all pretty confident that we could get it done, Fulton said after the race. Carleton was ranked ninth in the nation before Saturday while St. Olaf was ranked 20th.

St. Olaf did well to defeat the Knights, whose top finisher came in third overall with a time 15 seconds behind Richards. The Oles also finished with a total of 43 points, compared to Carletons 56. St. Thomas and Macalester came in a distant third and fourth, with 115 and 118 points respectively.

The conference meet was especially meaningful for Fulton and Richards, who are seniors this year.

Its really a capping experience to work so hard for four years and then have it all pull together like this, Fulton said.

Though the win was an exciting finish to conference competition, the team is now looking to the regional and national competitions. The regional meet in Waverly, Iowa, promises to bring stiff competition for the Oles. If St. Olaf can place in the top four at the regional meet, the team will continue on to the national meet on Nov. 20 in Colfax, Wis.

Saturdays victory proves that the Oles are a good bet to earn top-four honors at regionals and advance to nationals. They have had strong leadership all year and will enjoy considerable momentum coming off their conference championship.

With a few more weeks of practice and focus, the men hope to earn yet another honor they havent seen for a while.

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