For the second year in a row, senior women’s cross-country team captain Emily Oren won the individual NCAA Division II Midwest Regional championship, leading her team to a second place finish behind Grand Valley State University on Saturday and an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Championships on Nov. 21. For her efforts Oren was also named Midwest Region Athlete of the year.
Later that day, the men’s cross-country team ran their best effort of the season, barely missing qualifying for the national meet.
“It was pretty comfortable; it was a little faster than conference, but considering it’s flat, it wasn’t too bad,” Oren said. “It’s easy to be comfortable when you’re not the one setting the pace.”
In addition to Emily Oren’s win, Kristina Galat, Molly Oren, and Hannah McIntyre also earned All-Region honors, placing fourth, seventh, and 10th respectively. Junior captain Joe Newcomb was the men’s sole All-Region athlete, placing 10th in his race. Newcomb finished just one place away from individually qualifying for the national meet.
“It was guaranteed the best cross-country race I’ve ever run,” Newcomb said. “I feel like I established myself as an elite runner in the GLIAC.”
Emily Oren was proud of how her teammates battled during the race.
“Ally Eads and Kate Royer did a good job of trying to stay close to Molly and Hannah because that’s where the last scoring runner comes in, as our fifth runner,” she said. “And Andie Bodary coming back from an injury worked really hard through the race.”
Eads, a freshman, was pleased with how she ran in her first college cross-country regional.
“The whole race I thought I was going really slow and my hamstrings were really tight, but then I PR’d by 35 seconds,” she said.
Alexis Zeis, a sophomore from the University of Mary, was the only woman to beat Oren’s 20:16 6K time with a 20:08.
But that doesn’t phase Oren.
“If push came to shove, I can break 20 minutes,” Oren said.
All seven women finished in the top 60 places, but had over a two minute gap between the first and seventh runners. Head distance coach Joe Lynn is confident his team can close that gap at the national meet.
“Our one tofive gap, if it’s in 90 seconds, we’re in a really good spot as a team,” Lynn said. “Without a doubt we can be 90 seconds.”
Before Saturday, only four of the seven men running in Saturday’s race had run a 10K race, yet Lynn believed they had their best performance of the season.
“The men ran great,” he said. “I thought we showed a lot of poise in executing our race plan that we had going in. I was really proud with how they finished on a high note.”
All four men who’d raced a 10K previously posted a personal best time, while the three who hadn’t previously raced in one all finished in under 34 minutes. The men’s gap between their first and seventh runner was the largest of the season — over two and a half minutes — but the race was also two kilometers longer than the men typically race.
En route to his All-Region performance, Newcomb greatly improved upon his performance from two weeks earlier at the GLIAC Conference Championships, placing the fifth-highest among GLIAC runners at the regional meet after finishing 19th at conference.
Sophomore Tony Wondaal placed 31st, only one place out of earning All-Region honors.
The men’s ninth-place finish at the regional ends their season, but Newcomb believes that the team has a lot of positive things they can walk away with after the season.
“I’m really excited for next year,” Newcomb said. “Our team is going to be really good next year, there’s no doubt, even if we didn’t get any recruits.”
Over the next two weeks, the women’s team will largely continue their regular training schedule, while slightly cutting down their miles so their legs can be as fresh as possible at the national meet.
Even after dropping to third in the national rankings and falling behind Grand Valley at the regional meet, Lynn is confident that his team can win the national meet.
“At this point it’s going to come down to who has the best day,” Lynn said.
In addition to Grand Valley, the Chargers will face their toughest competition: Adam State University.
Even with the steep competition ahead, Oren is looking forward to the fun she will have with her teammates on the trip.
“We’re there for a couple of days and you get to hang out with your teammates and get excited about the race, and then afterwards when you do really well, it’s just fun to enjoy each other’s company,” Oren said.
The NCAA Division II National Championships will take place on Nov. 21 in Joplin, Missouri at the Missouri Southern Cross Country Course.