The UMD cross-country teams earned a pair of respectable fourth-place finishes at last weekend’s NSIC Championships in Minneapolis. Augustana College won the conference championship for both the men’s and women’s divisions at the 14-team meet.
The UMD men’s and women’s teams were led by the usual suspects.
On the men’s side, senior team captain Cole Toepfer was once again the top finisher for the Bulldogs, completing the 8k race eighth with a time of 25:50.0. He was followed by fellow seniors Dan Nielsen, who finished with a time of 26:01.6, and Ryan Eason, who clocked in at 26:17.6.
Senior Jason Coffin, freshman Mitch Fisher, junior Tyler Stevens and junior Aaron Handorff rounded out the field for the Bulldogs, all finishing in the top 40 of the field of 106 racers.
“I think the best we could’ve done is third,” said head coach Paul Nisius. “We ran well and basically we were replacing four of our top five runners from last year, and we came in third last year. So to be this close showed our guys planned well and overcame that.” On the women’s side, freshman Kaelyn Williams was again the top performer for UMD, pacing the Bulldogs with a time of 23:12.2, good enough for 12th overall in the 6k run. She was closely followed by freshman Hannah Olson (23:26.2), sophomore Alexandra Rudin (23:50.1) and junior Alyssa Salava (23:52.6).
Also competing for the Bulldogs were sophomore Victoria Lutz, sophomore Amanda Boman and freshman Emily Muellner, who all finished in the top 46 out of the 119 runners in contention.
“Taking fourth in the conference is about the best we could do,” head coach Joanna Warmington said. “Augustana is the defending national champion, Mary placed fifth last year, Winona is ranked in the top 10. We went in saying it’s a mini-national meet.”
The meet was a final tune-up for the NCAA Division II Regional Championships in Joplin, Mo., where the Bulldogs will compete on Nov. 3.
The top four men’s teams at that meet will qualify for the NCAA Championships, a feat that Nisius admitted would be tough for his team to accomplish. However, the top three finishers not on one of the qualifying teams will move on as individuals.
“Cole and Dan, if they run extremely well have an outside, outside chance of qualifying individually,” Nisius said. “At the regionals, we run 10k instead of the normal 8k and traditionally my team has done well with the conversion to 10. My team has run well the last two years and we’re hoping to do it for a third year.”
On the women’s side, the top five teams qualify and the top seven individuals not on one of those teams advance. Warmington feels strongly that the team can have at least one or two runners advance, but hopes they can make it as a team.
“I’ve done the math, I’ve put in times from other conferences and looked at different scenarios,” she said. “It keeps coming up that we have to beat Mankato. We have a similar team at every level. We have to come out that day and have a better day.”
BY TOM OLSEN email@example.com