CROSS COUNTRY: Athletes show off their talent at NCAAs
This past weekend was the conclusion of a fantastic cross country season. The men’s and women’s teams each sent their captain to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III National Cross Country Championships. While the teams were not among the 32 teams that qualified to run in the national championships, captains Ryan Stender ’18 and Emily Bryson ’19 were among the 56 individual runners who qualified based on their times at regionals. Both runners returned as All-Americans. Before yesterday, the men’s and women’s teams hadn’t both had an All-American in the same season since 1995.
Stender and Bryson were not presented with the best running conditions. It was raining off and on throughout the day, and wind gusts reached up to 20 miles per hour. This year’s Nationals course was known to be especially hilly with difficult maneuvers throughout. Nonetheless, both runners did extremely well.
Stender came home with his first All-American honor after being just two spots away at Nationals last year. He finished 37th in 2016 when the top 35 were given the distinction. For this year’s race, the NCAA expanded the field to include the top 40 runners, but Stender had no need for the new rules. He improved 8 places and finished 27th with a time of 24:49.33, the third best 8-kilometer race of his career. He also improved upon his placing at both the conference and regional championships. Stender finished fifth among New England runners after finishing sixth at regionals. He also finished third among University Athletic Association runners after placing fifth at the conference race. Stender is the first All-American that the men's team has produced since 2011.
Darin Lau, a senior from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was the winner of the men’s race. He finished with a time of 24:03.59. North Central College repeated as men’s champions after beating out their runner-ups University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in second and Christopher Newport University in third. Washington University in St. Louis finished fifth.
Bryson ran hard as well and earned her third consecutive All-American honor. She has shown improvement in almost every race this season, and nationals was no exception. After placing 31st her first year and 24th last year, Bryson jumped four more spots and finished 20th, the best for a Brandeis women’s runner since 2002. She also improved her placing among New England racers, finishing sixth, three spots up from her ninth place finish at regionals. She finished fourth among UAA runners, the same as her placing at regionals.
Junior Khia Kurtenbach, who hails from fellow UAA school University of Chicago, won the race in 20:39.2. Johns Hopkins University won their second consecutive women’s cross country national Division III championship. They edged out Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which finished as the runner ups along with UAA school Washington University in St. Louis in third.
Overall, this cross country season was a success. It started on Sept. 1 when the men's and women's teams both edged out Wellesley College and Regis College, respectively, at the Wellesley College Invitational, winning the meet. Two weeks later, at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Invitational, the men’s and women’s teams finished in second place and third place, respectively, out of 40 teams that competed. Next, both teams captured first place at the Keene State College Invitational, a nine-team meet. Then, at the Connecticut College Invitational, the men finished fifth out of 20 teams while the women finished sixth out of 21. The UAA Conference Championships came next with both teams placing sixth. Then came the NCAA New England Regional Championships, where the men’s team came in sixth, and the women's team finished eighth. Fans will clearly have a lot to look forward to in the 2018 season as the Judges look to come back strong.