NORTHFIELD, Minn. – The Carleton College women raced to a second-place finish in the team competition at the NCAA Central Regional championships, securing a spot in next weekend’s national championship race to be held in Hanover, Ind.
The Knights, who won the MIAC Championships two weeks ago, were the lone team in the field to boast three top-15 finishes. Ruth Steinke (So./Lima, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) led Carleton by crossing the line 11th in a time of 22:35.14 followed closely by Winona Rachel (Fy./Shakopee, Minn./Shakopee) who was 14th with a mark of 22:37.09. Colette Celichowski (Jr./Shorewood, Minn./Minnetonka) was the next racer to complete the six-kilometer course, placing 15th with a time of 22:48.29.
“I am so proud of this team,” said Carleton head coach Donna Ricks. “We certainly felt a bit of pressure going into the region meet as we knew we had the ability to finish in the top two. The team held their composure and are now heading to Hanover, Ind. What a great experience for this young team to be going to the national championships.”
The Knights will be making their third straight trip to the NCAA Championships and ninth overall visit to the national meet.
Also running a strong race today was Sally Donovan (So./Minneapolis, Minn./South), who joined Steinke, Rachel and Celichoswki in earning All-Region honors. Donovan posted a time of 23:10.29 to grab 21st place in the field of 181 runners.
Kazia Mermal (Fy./Sherman Oaks, Calif/Notre Dame) completed the team scoring for Carleton by running 43rd overall with a 23:43.66. No surprisingly, the Knights joined team champion Wartburg College (Iowa) in being the lone squads to have all five scorers rank among the top 50 finishers.
Carleton also had two additional top-100 runners in first-years Laura Nakasaka (Chevy Chase, Md./Bethesda-Chevy Chase) and Claire Trujillo (Fy./Anchorage, Ala./Grace Christian). The former placed 54th with a time of 23:52.99, and the latter was 85th with 24:17.39.
“Everyone stepped up to the line for their team today,” Ricks said. “Wow, what can I say about this team? One junior, two sophomores, and four first-years. This is just fun, and this team is impressive. We have been blessed with youth and depth this season.”
The top two finishing teams at each of the eight regions receive automatic spots at the NCAA Championships. Wartburg, ranked No. 3 in the nation, totaled 86 points to claim the first of the AQ’s. No. 15-ranked Carleton was next with 104 team points to secure the other.
Both No. 22-ranked St. Olaf College and unranked Luther College had a pair of top-10 finishers but neither could not compete with the Knights depth and placed third (131 points) and fourth (166) respectively.
“I know the team really wanted to run for one another and to represent all of their teammates. Sadly Shira Kaufman (So./Leverett, Mass./Amherst Regional Academy)—a member of our nationals team last season and in our top five this year—is out the remainder of this season due to injury. I know our team was out their running for her as well.”
Carleton has posted top-20 finishes at the last two NCAA Cross Country Championships. This year’s meet will be held at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the L.S. Ayres Complex on the campus of Hanover College.