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Historic victory for runners: Mens cross country team wins first national title at NCAAs

In an incredible day for St. Olaf athletics, the men’s cross country team won the Division-III Cross Country National Championship on Saturday, Nov. 23. This was the first national championship for a varsity team in St. Olaf history. The Oles edged out North Central College of Illinois by two points for the win.

Grant Wintheiser ’15, Jake Brown ’15, Brian Saska ’14, Jake Campbell ’16, Calvin Lehn ’16, Phil Meyer ’15 and Dillon Davis ’14 made up the seven-man team for the Oles. St. Olaf had been ranked third in the final NCAA poll of the year, behind North Central College and Washington Missouri Central College. However, the Oles had beaten North Central in the Central Region Championships on Nov. 16 and were poised to do well at nationals.

In the regional meet, Wintheiser placed second overall. Brown, who transferred from Princeton last year, was third and Saska was sixth. Carried by these performances, the Oles won the Central Region Championships, advancing to nationals. All seven runners for St. Olaf were named to the all-region team, and Coach Phil Lundin was named the NCAA Division-III Central Region Coach of the Year.

The 8K national championship took place in Hanover, Ind. Wintheiser was the Oles’ top finisher with a time of 24:34. Brown was the second finisher for St. Olaf, coming in at 25:00. Saska and Campbell both had incredible final kilometer runs to keep the Oles ahead of North Central. Lehn also managed to hold off runners in the final kilometer to be the Oles’ fifth and final scorer.

In the team scoring totals, St. Olaf held the 2, 4, 11, 21 and 46 spots, giving them only 84 points, the lowest of any team. North Central College placed second and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse placed third.

The team was welcomed back to the Hill with a pep rally on Nov. 24. A celebration to honor the runners will take place in Buntrock Commons on Dec. 10. With only one of their top runners graduating this year, the Oles look to do well in the MIAC and at the national meet next year as well.

Photo Courtesy of Hanover College Sports Information