Cross country teams succeed at nationals

The St. Olaf men’s and women’s cross-country teams returned to the Hill on Nov. 18 after tremendous performances at the NCAA Cross Country Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. The men’s team placed 14th, up from 23rd last year, while the women’s team raced past their 2011 10th-place finish to a remarkable eighth-place finish overall.

Among the noteworthy performances was a third-place finish by Grant Wintheiser ’15, earning him All-American honors. When asked about his success, Wintheiser had only effusive praise for the entire team.

“As an individual and a team, we placed higher than we expected to,” Wintheiser said. “We overcame injuries and other obstacles that plagued us throughout the season, and it was awesome to see that all our hard work and perseverance translated into success at the national level.”

Wintheiser’s incredible performance was combined with consistent races from Brian Saksa ’14 and Chris Massey ’15 to lead the men’s team to its 14th-place finish. Head Coach Phil Lundin echoed Wintheiser’s comment on the team’s dedication.

“The fact that Saksa and Massey were injured and could not begin to train seriously until late September and then they rose to contribute both at the regional and national level just shows the kind of leadership we had on this team,” Lundin said.

The women’s cross country team was the first team of all those participating to have two runners cross the finish line: Emma Lee ’13 placed fifth overall and Jorden Johnson ’15 came in ninth. The combination of a consistent and hardworking senior class coupled with the energy and talent of younger runners contributed to the Oles’ eighth-place finish.

When asked about the last cross country race of her collegiate career, Lee said, “It was the best race of my life. I trained all season with this goal in mind, and it all came together.” Lee entered the national meet as one of the only previously-named All-Americans in the race.

The cross country teams certainly have teamwork figured out: Their collective performances against stiff competition brought out the competitive edge that defines Ole athletics.