Title Defenses, Upsets and More - DIII Nationals

A mix of expected outcomes and surprises headlined the 2013 NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championship in Hanover, Indiana earlier today. Muddy and cold conditions made for difficult racing throughout the day.

The women’s race had very few surprises as Johns Hopkins University repeated as national champions with a score of 85 points to runner-up Williams College’s 137 points.

The Blue Jays were led by three All-American efforts, including Hannah Oneda’s fourth place finish in a time of 21:27.7. Annie Monagle and Frances Loeb also placed within the top 35 for Johns Hopkins.

The defending champs were in control of the race from the gun and stayed atop the leader-board at each race checkpoint. The Blue Jays enjoyed a 32-second spread among their top 5 runners.

The individual race was no surprise either as pre-race favorite and pre-national champion, Chelsea Johnson of St. Scholastica ran away with the victory in the last kilometer. She crossed the line with a time of 21:11.7 ahead of runner-up Noelle Olson’s 21:22.3.

For the first five kilometers of the race, Johnson led the lead group with Oneda. With one kilometer to go, Johnson made a definitive move, which proved to be the difference. This is Johnson’s first national title.

While the women’s race matched pre-race predictions, the men’s side yeilded more surprises. The biggest of these was St. Olaf College defeating the reigning champion and #1 ranked North Central College (Ill) by two points, 84-86. Both teams dominated the race overall with four individual All-Americans on each side.

Like Johns Hopkins, St. Olaf controlled the race early on, leading team scores at each checkpoint, led by third place finisher, Grant Wintheiser and eighth place finisher, Jake Brown. The Cardinals of North Central steadily moved up throughout the race, and charged hard for a repeat. Despite a runner-up effort from John Crain, the defending champs fell to #3 ranked St. Olaf.

Crain’s 24:33 effort placed second behind only Michael LeDuc’s 24:29.3. LeDuc (Connecticut College), like women’s champion Johnson, also won the pre-national meet on the same course earlier this season.

Eli Horton of Central College started the race out hard and opened up a gap on the field after the one-mile mark. Throughout the race a contingency of runners, led by Crain and LeDuc, closed the gap. With 600-meters to go, the duo of Crain and LeDuc had overtaken the rest of the field and came down the final stretch side by side. An extra effort from LeDuc gave him the slight edge and his first cross-country national title.