HANOVER, Ind. – The Carleton College women’s cross country squad capped the 2013 season with an 18th-place result at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. The Knights easily possessed the youngest team in the field, counting four first-years, two sophomores and a junior among their seven racers. Colette Celichowski (Jr./Shorewood, Minn./Minnetonka) was Carleton’s top finisher, placing 59th overall in a field of 280 racers.
“There was a lot of buzz about this young team prior to the start of the season, and it continued to grow each week,” said Carleton head coach Donna Ricks. “I set a challenging competition schedule this fall, as a sign of a good team is whether they can continue to compete at a high level each week. This team did just that.
“They accepted the challenge and ran consistently strong throughout the season, which led them to the MIAC title and then gaining an automatic bid to the national meet. At a strong liberal arts school like Carleton, that is not an easy task. We learned a lot about ourselves this season and are already fired-up about next year.”
Running in cold temperatures on a soft course, top-seeded John’s Hopkins University won the team competition on Saturday with a total of 85 points, followed by Williams College (137 points) and Middlebury College (185).
The four central region squads participating in the 32-team field finished in the same order at nationals that they did a week ago at the regional championships. Wartburg College placed 11th in the team competition with 372 points, followed by Carleton (442 points), St. Olaf College (26th with 579 points) and Luther College (27th at 625 points).
The Knights were competing at nationals for the ninth time in team history and the third consecutive year, however they had a brand new lineup from the group that tied for eighth two seasons ago.
Celichowski raced at the NCAA Championships for the second straight year and was the lone upperclass runner for Carleton on this day. She posted a time of 22:17.6, moving up in the individual standings throughout the race. Celichowski sat back in 103rd place at the two-kilometer checkpoint and was still 93rd at the race’s midpoint. Then she began to make her move, improving 16 spots over the next quarter of the race and passing another 18 runners over the final 1500 meters.
Ruth Steinke (So./Lima, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) was next across for the Knights, recording a time of 22:34.4, which ranked 88th in the field. Like Celichowski she was able to make a late push, improving 19 spots over the final 1.5 kilometers.
Winona Rachel (Fy./Shakopee, Minn./Shakopee) was the first of the Knights’ four rookies to finish, completing the six-kilometer course 96th with a time of 22:36.6. She sat way back in 153rd at the two-kilometer mark but improved a whopping 57 spots over the balance of the race, passing 45 runners during the final three kilometers.
Sally Donovan (So./Minneapolis, Minn./South) crossed the line at 22:57.1, ranking 153rd overall. Like her teammates, she also greatly improved her standing as the race unfolded, moving up from 197th place at the two-kilometer checkpoint to gain 44 spots by the finish line.
Kazia Mermel (Fy./Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) was the final point scorer for the Knights with a finishing time of 23:22.6. She was the 201st runner across the line, but counted only 151 points for Carleton due to runners that were individual entries and not participating in the team competition. She passed 19 runners between the two- and three-kilometer checkpoints and kept racing past competitors all the way to the finish line, improving 37 spots by race’s end.
First-years Claire Trujillo (Anchorage, Ala./Grace Christian) and Laura Nakasaka (Chevy Chase, Md./Bethesda-Chevy Chase) also got their first taste of the running on this stage, posting times of 24:00.0 and 24:20.0, respectively.
“We have been fortunate to have some talented athletes come to Carleton and coaching them has been wonderful,” said Ricks. “A special thank you goes to my assistant coach Laura Roach as she has been instrumental in the success of this team. It has been great coaching together, and I can't thank her enough.
“I am very proud of this team and truly admire their dedication as students and as athletes. I plan to savor this season a bit as I prepare to move on to the track season, which I anticipate should be very exciting as well.”