ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Carleton Women's Cross Country squad likes to pack up when they run. At the 2011 MIAC Championships, they followed the same philosophy, except this time they extended it all the way across the finish line as a trio of Knights—seniors Simone Childs-Walker (Seattle, Wash./Lakeside) and Alison Smyth (Billings, Mont./West) and junior Rachael Klehm (Wellesley, Mass)—finished 1-2-3 to spark Carleton to its fifth conference crown. The Knights, ranked No. 23 in the latest USTFCCCA poll, placed five runners in the top 20 and earned the team title, besting cross-town rival No. 11 St. Olaf College.
The Knights finished with 33 points followed by St. Olaf (52), Gustavus (82) and St. Thomas (91).
“We knew we would have to have a perfect day in order to beat St. Olaf,” said Carleton head coach Donna Ricks. “The girls went out, ran with confidence, and focused on what they needed to do: making sure we’re implementing the race structure we’ve been doing all season.”
The Knights captured their first MIAC championship in 1991 and have now won the team title in four of the last eight years. Carleton also won the title in 2004, 2005 and 2009 before placing third at last year’s conference meet. This marks the 14th top-three finish for the Knights over the last 17 seasons.
Childs-Walker, a two-time All-American in cross country, is known for running down the competition as the race progresses. This time, however, she led from the start and became Carleton’s third-ever conference champion in cross country, joining Shelly Scherer in 1987 and Anna Prineas in 1988. This marks Childs-Walker’s fourth consecutive year finishing in the top three at the MIAC Championships after she traversed the six-kilometer course in 22:06.
Last year, Childs-Walker finished behind St. Olaf runners Maren Westby and Emma Lee, but this year the Oles came in sixth and 11th, respectively.
Smyth crossed the line at 22:15, improving on her eighth-place showing from a year ago and garnering All-MIAC distinction once again. The coaching staff was excited to see what Klehm could do, as she had been building momentum over the last few weeks. She showed why there was so much optimism heading into the meet, and she finished at 22:18
Senior Taylor ffitch (Portland, Ore/St. Mary’s) was next across the line for Carleton, placing seventh overall (22:43) to earn All-MIAC recognition for the second time in her career.
“The seniors put together some incredible races, across the board really impressive,” said Ricks. “This team has been incredible all season. They are so positive, work so hard, and are excited for each other.
“I was concerned around the two-mile mark that we moved too soon. But the pace seemed right. They weren’t forcing it, and then they came on strong and built the last two miles.”
In addition to claiming four of the first seven spots, the Knights had eight racers finish in the top 50.
Rounding out the scoring was first-year Becca Herd (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who placed 20th at 23:28. She would’ve finished even earlier but fell with about 200 meters remaining in the race. Herd popped right back up and resumed her sprint to the line. Kaitlin Randolph (Jr./Drummond, Wis.) joined her in earning All-MIAC honorable mention after placing 23rd at 23:37.
“Today was good day,” said Ricks. “I told the team that this meet is a celebration of running and they should enjoy it… and they did.”
A search of the archives on the MIAC website (miac-online.org), reveals that this is the second recorded time that a single school had the first three finishers at the women’s meet. St. Thomas accomplished the feat en route to the team title in 1997.
The Knights will race again at the Karhu Shoe Race on Thursday, Nov. 3. Then it’s on to the NCAA Central Regional Championships in Waverly, Iowa on Nov. 12.