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Knights Ready for NCAA Cross Country Championships

November 22, 2013 at 11:15 am

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HANOVER, Ind. -- Both Carleton College cross country teams are headed to the NCAA Division III Championships to be hosted by Hanover College (Ind.) on Saturday, Nov. 23. Each Knight squad is nationally ranked and rides a wave of momentum into nationals.

The six-kilometer women’s race begins at 11 a.m. ET followed by the men’s eight-kilometer competition at 12:30 p.m. ET. Live video of the meet is available via Results will be posted on the NCAA Championships website.

The young Carleton women’s team moved up to No. 13 in this week’s national rankings released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Earlier this month, the Knights captured their fifth conference title over the last decade by beating a pair of nationally-ranked conference opponents at the MIAC Championships. Most recently, with a second-place finish at the Central Region Championships, the Knights secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.

The Carleton men’s team burst onto the scene with some great early-season performances and has not let up all season long. The Knights placed second at the MIAC Championships and then took fourth at the Central Region Championships before receiving an at-large bid to the 32-team field at nationals. This year marked the first time sine 2007 that the Knights are nationally ranked, and they are making their first trip to the NCAA Championships since that season.

This is also the first time since 2005 that both Carleton teams earned spots in the team competition at the NCAA Championships. This is the fifth time overall that feat has been accomplished as both Knights’ squads also raced at the 1981, 1995, and 2004 national meets.

Four members of the women’s team garnered All-Region recognition last weekend. Ruth Steinke (So./Lima, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima), Winona Rachel (Fy./Shakopee, Minn./Shakopee), Colette Celichowski (Jr./Shorewood, Minn./Minnetonka), and Sally Donovan (So./Minneapolis, Minn./South) crossed the line 11th, 14th, 15th and 21st respectively, making Carleton the lone team with four racers among the top-25 at regionals.

This will be the third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships for the Carleton women, with the squad finishing eighth in 2011 and 17th last fall. The Knights will benefit from the experience that Celichowski, Steinke, and Donovan gained as each scored points—placed among the team’s top five finishers—for Carleton at the 2012 national meet. However, the other four runners on this year’s entry for the NCAA Championships are first-years. Joining Rachel in that group are Kazia Mermal (Fy./Sherman Oaks, Calif/Notre Dame), Laura Nakasaka (Chevy Chase, Md./Bethesda-Chevy Chase), and Claire Trujillo (Fy./Anchorage, Ala./Grace Christian). Another rookie, Nicole Nipper (Fy./Minnetonka, Minn./Minnehaha Academy), has been designated as the alternate if one of the other seven racers cannot compete.

“The accomplishments of this young team have been phenomenal,” said Carleton head women’s cross country coach Donna Ricks. “Qualifying for nationals is a tremendous feat, but to do this with one junior, two sophomores and five first-years is fun and amazing. They work hard, are focused and truly enjoy one another.

“I had no idea how good this team would be this year when we first started, I know others were watching us, and I often heard ‘wait until next year,’ as the season progressed. I continued to hear that statement, I was thinking ‘what about this year?’ I do not think they are going to wait until next year they were ready to make some things happen now. These are incredible women. They truly are everything we look for in a student-athlete.  I could not be more proud of all they have given to Carleton’s cross country program.”

The Carleton men enter nationals ranked No. 27 by the USTFCCCA and also had four All-Region runners. Sophomores Hart Hornor (Seattle, Wash./Roosevelt) and Jonah Barry (Madison, Wis./Madison West) were joined on that list by seniors Marcus Huderle (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie) and Jacob Hoerger (Chapel Hill, N.C./Chapel Hill) after placing 11th, 20th, 29th, and 32nd respectively at regionals.

Joe Haase (So./Madison, Wis./Madison West), Guthrie Cunningham (Sr./Finland, Minn./Duluth East), and Thor Laack-Veeder (Jr./Madison, Wis./LaFollette) round out the seven-racer entry for Carleton at the NCAA Championships. If needed, Noah Laack-Veeder (Jr./Madison, Wis./LaFollette) will serve as the Knights’ alternate.