Although the St. Olaf women were not ranked nationally in pre-season polls, they beat two nationally ranked teams - LaCrosse (#13 nationally, finished 3rd) and UW Platteville (#21 nationally, finished 4th) - and trailed UW Eau Claire (#11 nationally, finished 1st) by just 17 seconds overall.
Junior Jenna Carlson's personal time of 22:59 (5th overall) beat out all the top runners on both the LaCrosse and Eau Claire teams, certainly a large factor of their second-place finish at 23:44.
Coach Chris Daymont expects that the team's stellar performance on Saturday will push them into the national rankings by next week - "maybe as high as top 25," she said. She attributes the team's early-season successes to "lots of summer miles run" and "a great mix of upper-class students and first-years."
Led by captains Casey Baustian '08, Jenna Carlson '09 and Lisa Skildum '08, the entire team "helps each other stay focused and positive," Daymont said.
This year's St. Olaf Invitational was particularly well-attended because St. Olaf will be hosting the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 17th. Naturally, many teams came to "preview" the racing course in preparation for the championship race. Twenty-five teams from three states ran in the women's division, and 27 in the men's competition. However, some familiar MIAC opponents - including Carleton, St. Thomas, and Concordia - were not present this year.
The men's team, also unranked in pre-season polls, made a big step toward one of their season-long goals this year: closing the gap on their times on St. Olaf's "relatively difficult" 8000-meter racing course, according to coach Bill Thornton. The men finished 11th out of 27, with an average race time of 27:20.
Led by senior captain David Swanson's personal time of 26:41, the men had ten runners finish within 2:45 of each other - a great achievement for a team of 28. Thornton sees the team as a group of athletes who are really "willing to work to become a better team."
The women run this Friday at the UW-Eau Claire Blugold Invite. The men's team is off until they host the Pre-Regionals meet on Oct. 6.