The St. Olaf men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Mason, Ohio on Nov. 22 to compete in the NCAA Division III cross country championships. It proved to be a day of dramatic highs and near-misses for the Oles. Grant Wintheiser ’15 captured the individual title, but the men’s team fell tantalizingly short of defending its national title from 12 months earlier, finishing in second place behind North Central College.
The Ole men started the race in an impressive fashion and looked destined to claim back-to-back titles. Halfway through the race, St. Olaf was in first position. Unfortunately for the Oles, Jake Brown ’15 took a tumble late in the race on the difficult course.
Wintheiser was a favorite heading into the 8k event, after finishing third in 2012 and 2013. He didn’t disappoint. Wintheiser was content to sit just behind the race leader until the 6k mark. From there, he made the race his own, finishing in 23:44.9 to win the individual crown by almost seven seconds. The Oles’ Jake Campbell ’16 24.07 and Paul Escher ’16 24:19.7 earned All-American honors as well, finishing in ninth and 14th positions respectively. Phil Meyer ’15 24:52.0 was 47th and Jake Brown 25:28.0 placed 116th. Ultimately, the Oles fell an agonizing 13 points short of NCC. St. Olaf coach Phil Lundin was upbeat after the race.
“I guess we’ve come a long way at St. Olaf to be disappointed with a second place,” Lundin said. “So, what are you gonna say? It’s sport, and you have your ups and downs.”
Wintheiser concludes his Ole cross country career as one of the greatest DIII runners of all time. He is only the third man in division history with three top-three finishes.
The NCAA appearance was the fourth straight season and sixth in seven under head coach Phil Lundin. The Oles won the school’s first NCAA national championship in any sport with the team title last season.
The Ole women also performed strongly at the event, capping a strong season with a 27th place finish. Piper Bain ’16 led the way for St. Olaf in the 6k race, finishing 85th overall in a time of 23:07.7. Next for the Oles was Jorden Johnson ’15, who finished in 118th position 23:22.2. Capping out the top five for the Oles was Michaela Banz ’15 23:43.0, Kelsey Coulter ’15 24:03.7 and Jordan Lutz ’18 24:34.5 in 171st, 205th and 248th positions respectively.
St. Olaf was making its sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Championship and its 22nd in school history. The Oles placed second at the Central Regional Championships and second in the MIAC Championships in a hugely successful season.
Photo Courtesy of Grant Wintheiser