Less than a minute separated the top seven St. Olaf runners. Jackie Kelly '08 finished second for the Oles, 12th place overall, with a time of 23:11.85. Casey Baustian '08 followed next with a time of 23:20.25, placing her 17th overall. First-year Laura Cook was the fourth St. Olaf runner to finish, 23rd overall, with a time of 23:30.70.
Annie Knutson '09 and Michaela McLaughlin '10 crossed the finish line less than one second apart, Knutson at 23:41.25 and McLaughlin at 23:41.95. The two runners placed fifth and sixth respectively among the St. Olaf team, 25th and 26th against the rest of the field. Margaret Ho '11 rounded out the top seven St. Olaf runners, placing 29th overall with a time of 23:44.50.
Carlson and Kelly were named to the All-Conference team for their efforts this season, while Baustian, Cook and Knutson received All-Conference Honorable Mention awards.
Scoring for the MIAC Championships was based on the sum of overall positions. Each school added the final placement of its top five runners to determine the team score. Only six places separated the top three schools. St. Thomas placed first overall with a score of 74, pursued closely by Carleton which posted a score of 76.
Carlson, Kelly, Baustian, Cook and Knutson combined to score 80 for the Oles and secure a third-place overall finish. Other top St. Olaf finishers included Abby Smith '10, Rebecca Spurr '11, Lisa Skildum '08 and Ginny Butt '11.
Bethel University boasted two of the top three runners overall and a slightly faster overall team time than the Oles, but fell to a distant fourth place finish with a score of 114. Bethel sophomore Marie Borner took home the individual title with a time of 21:56.05 and senior Niki Umhoefer finished third overall, but the next three Royals placed 32nd or higher.
Saturday's third place finish affected St. Olaf's standings, but not as directly as one might think.
"Our finish will affect our national ranking, but that does not mean anything about our team and our potential," Kelly said. "Qualifying for Nationals is still a team goal and we can do it."
The results of next week's Central Regional meet will determine whether or not the Oles will qualify for the NCAA Division III Championship meet, both of which will be held on the St. Olaf campus.
Only the top two teams from each region automatically qualify for Nationals, but it is likely that as many as five schools from the central region will make it in on at-large bids, Kelly said.
Kelly is confident that St. Olaf's slip from second to fifth in the central region will not prevent them from making a legitimate run towards a Nationals berth.
"Our top seven [runners] can outrun any of the competition's top five," Kelly said, "and this will help us in the weeks ahead."
Last season, St. Olaf placed seventh at the NCAA Central Region meet out of 23 total schools. At that meet, Carlson finished 58th overall. McLaughlin and Kelly finished 65th and 67th respectively.
St. Olaf will host the final three meets of the year on the women's schedule, starting with the Karhu Shoe Race at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. On Nov. 10 St. Olaf will hold the NCAA Central Regional Meet, followed by the final NCAA Division III Championship Meet on Nov. 17. Both races begin at 11 a.m.