The Gustavus women’s and men’s cross country teams will be competing at the NCAA Central Regional in Grinnell, Iowa on Saturday, November 15. The women’s squad, this year’s MIAC champions, appears to be a contender for a bid to the national championships. Bids will be awarded to the top three team finishers and the top five individuals who are not on one of the top three teams.
The women’s team missed qualifying for the national competition at last year’s regional meet by one point. Last season, four squads from the Central Region were selected to participate at the national meet. With the elimination of one spot, competition will be increasingly tough for a chance to run at the national meet. Gustavus, ranked 24th in the latest national poll, is one of four nationally ranked teams that will compete at the regional meet. Wartburg (10th), Nebraska Wesleyan (12th), and Luther (16th) are the other ranked teams that are the favorites going in. MIAC schools St. Olaf, St. Thomas, and Carleton could also contend for one of the bids.
Top runners for the Gusties who hope to earn all-region honors and a chance to compete at the national meet include senior Jen Skalko and juniors Nichole Petersen and Tasha Pike. Skalko, an all-region runner a year ago, placed second at the conference championships on November 1. Petersen, a two-time all-region competitor, finished fourth at the MIAC meet. Pike also earned all-conference honors by placing 11th.
On the men’s side, Gustavus is hoping to improve upon last year’s 14th place showing. Competition will be extremely tight for the national bids, as six teams are ranked in the top 25. Ranked schools heading into the weekend are Nebraska Wesleyan (7th), Wartburg (12th), St. Thomas (13th), Carleton (17th), Grinnell (20th), and Loras (25th). First-year athlete Alex Zupan and sophomore Dan Westlund have been the Gusties’ top runners at each of the last two meets.
The women’s race, which will be 6K in length, will begin at 11:00 am. The men’s 8K competition will start at 12:00 pm. Both competitions will take place at Oakland Acres Golf Club in Grinnell. The NCAA National Championships will be held on November 22 in Hanover, Indiana.
For more information, visit the Grinnell Athletic Web Site