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Despite tumbles, Knights still manage to finish 14th at NCAA Championships

November 17, 2018 at 5:07 pm
Lucas Mueller (left) and Matt Wilkinson were both All-Americans at the 2018 NCAA XC Championships.
Lucas Mueller (left) and Matt Wilkinson were both All-Americans at the 2018 NCAA XC Championships.
Photo: Steve Frommell / d3photography.com

WINNECONNE, Wis. – Despite an early race recall and a pair of crashes, the Carleton College men’s cross country team still managed to finish 14th at the NCAA Division III Championships.

Initially, the Knights got off the line in spectacular fashion and were among the leaders, but the race was halted and the 280-runner field recalled to the starting line. Upon the restart, Carleton got off the line well again, and its top four racers were in great position. But the pack was extremely compact heading into a tight left-hand turn about 600 meters from the start.

That is where trouble first arose for the Knights. One runner went down, tripping up several others competitors. This created a chain reaction that resulted in a huge pileup—more reminiscent of a NASCAR crash than a cross country race—as runners ended stacked on top of one another.

Sophomores Lucas Mueller (St. Paul, Minn./Nova Classical Academy) and Matt Wilkinson (Minnetonka, Minn./Minnetonka) avoided the bulk of the danger and were able to stay with the main pack, but both Cameron Meikle (Jr./Hamilton, Mont./Hamilton) and Tris Dodge (Sr./Oakland, Calif./College Prep) were caught up in this mess as each lost 100-150 places.

Mueller and Wilkinson ended up turning in the 24th and 25th All-America performances in program history. The former clocked a time of 24:49.7—good for 17th place—while the latter finished 38th overall at 24:58.9.

Meikle, who due to the early-race pileup was back in 217th at the 1.5-mile mark, improved more than 120 spots over the final 5.5 kilometers and finished in 94th place with a time of 25:33.9. Dodge had climbed more than 80 spots in the standings only to be tripped up again with only 400 meters to go. That second crash cost him nearly 50 places, and he ended up as the 188th runner across the line at 26:04.1.

Rookie Stephen Lavey (Cedar Grove, Wis./Cedar Grove-Belgium) rounded out the scoring for the Knights. He moved up 20 spots in the standings over the last 3,000-meters and crossed the line 218th at 26:19.7.

First-years Adam Nakasaka (Chevy Chase, Md./Bethesda-Chevy Chase) and Ben Santos (Boulder, Colo./Boulder) got their first taste of racing at nationals, as they clocked times of 26:33.4 and 26:56.9, respectively, to place 241st and 258th overall.

Due to the large-scale accident that temporarily sidelined Meikle and Dodge, Carleton was 24th out of 32 teams at the 1.5-mile mark. The Knights had already begun their move up through the field, however, and were 20th only 700 meters later. They had climbed up to 12th with about a half-mile left in the race before trouble struck again for Dodge.

No. 1 North Central College won its 19th overall team title and third straight with a total of only 43 points. No. 2-ranked Washington (Mo.) University was the runner up at 110 points followed by No. 4 UW-La Crosse at 127. No. 7 Haverford College (213 points) grabbed fourth place as No. 13 Wartburg College (227) took fifth.

No. 8 Amherst College (253), No. 10 Pomona-Pitzer (298), No. 11 Williams College (300), No. 12 Johns Hopkins University (308), and No. 9 SUNY-Geneseo (329) rounded out the top 10. No. 14 UW-Eau Claire (357), No. 21 University of Chicago (390), No. 3 RPI (399), No. 15 Carleton (409), and No. 16 Middlebury College (411) earned 11th through 15th in the team standings.

The Knights should be poised for another solid season in 2019 as Dodge was the lone senior on Carleton’s national’s lineup this time around.