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ISSUE 121 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/16/2007

Women stride into NCAAs

By Barrett Kennedy
Sports Editor


Friday, November 16, 2007

In the end, the St. Olaf women's cross country team achieved its goal of reaching the NCAA Division III Championships, though the achievement was not certain immediately following Saturday's NCAA Central Regional meet held on the St. Olaf campus.

The women did not automatically qualify, but instead received an at-large bid announced Sunday evening.

The women placed fifth overall at the Central Regional with 201 points, just four points behind MIAC rival St. Thomas. Luther College literally ran away with the meet, sealing their victory by a 31-point margin over second-place Nebraska Wesleyan University and 73 points ahead of third-place Wartburg. All five schools will compete in Saturday's NCAA Championship.

Jenna Carlson '09 continued to pace the Oles in the regional meet despite not running her best race personally. Carlson finished 26th overall with a time of 23:15.

"I held my place [around 14th] for the first three miles or so and then lost it at the end and fell back about 10 places or so," Carlson said. "If anything, it was a really valuable learning experience for me."

Carlson noted her teammates' strong performances as well, calling the regional meet "a true team effort." Seniors Casey Baustian and Jackie Kelly finished one second apart with times of 23:27 and 23:28, placing them 33rd and 34th overall respectively.

A pair of first-years finished next for St. Olaf to round out the top five runners whose places are totaled for the team score. Margaret Ho '11 placed 50th with a time of 23:50, followed closely by Laura Cook '11 who finished 58th just seven seconds later.

Michaela McLaughlin '10 and Annie Knutson '09 ran swift races as well, posting times of 24:07 and 24:16 respectively to round out St. Olaf's top seven competitors.

McLaughlin placed 69th and Knutson finished 78th overall, although their places were not scored in the final team tally.

The NCAA Championship, held on St. Olaf's campus, features 32 teams: the top two teams from each of the eight regions plus 16 at-large bids, which were distributed Sunday.

The St. Olaf runners were confident that their performance over the course of the season earned them one of the 16 at-large bids.

"The at-large bid was pretty much expected," Carlson said. "We've raced well at all the meets prior to nationals and we have been ranked in the top 25 nationally all year."

In addition to the top seven runners in the regional meet, Lisa Skildum '08 and Abby Smith '10 will also get the opportunity to race at Nationals. The nine St. Olaf runners enjoy the unique advantage of racing on their home course.

"We all know where the mile and kilometer marks are located, we know the terrain, the hills and the flats, we know where to surge and where to relax," Carlson said. "People often don't realize how important it is to know a course before you race on it; it really gives [us] a hand up on the competition."

The Oles expect to perform well in the NCAA Championship meet Saturday at 11 a.m. St. Olaf's team goal is to place in at least the top 20 out of 36 total schools, Carlson said.





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