Maroons cap off season with trip to nationals

Both the women’s and men’s cross country teams wrapped up their seasons at the NCAA Division III National Championship. The women placed 18th while the men slid into 31st.

By Michael Cheiken

This past Saturday the men’s and women’s cross country teams travelled to Winneconne, WI to participate in the NCAA Division III Championships. It is the second time that Chicago has sent representatives from both the men’s and the women’s squads to the final meet. The past five seasons have ushered the women to the postseason, but it was the men’s first NCAA Championship since 2013. The 2013 season was also the most successful for the Maroons; the women placed fourth and the men were 28th. Both squads looked to best these performances.

The women raced first, and turned in an admirable performance. First-year Khia Kurtenbach headlined the Maroons, placing 25th in the meet. Her time of 21:41.60 in the 6K earned her All-American honors. The Chicago field was then rounded out by fourth-year Brianna Hickey, second-year Claire Costelloe, second-year Kelsey Dunn, fourth-year Catherine Young, third-year Madeleine Horvath, and second-year Cassidy McPherson respectively. The women took home 18th place in a field of 32 teams.

While the Lake Breeze Golf Club provided the locale for Hickey and Young’s final collegiate race, it was also a proving ground for the Maroons who showed great signs of strength for the future. Three of the team’s top five finishers are only second-years.

As the Maroons ran, they were rallied on by their other teammates and fans who drove up to Wisconsin that morning. The atmosphere was electric. Not only were the Chicagoans there, but each of the 32 teams brought along their own venerable cheering squad, making for an absolutely blistering event. The women relished the audience.

Horvath commented that it was “super nice of our teammates and fans to drive up and cheer us on,” especially since “it was cold as balls.”

Immediately after the conclusion of the women’s 6K, the men’s team stepped up to the starting line. Unfortunately, disaster struck early for the Maroons. As the pack of 278 runners approached the first turn of the race, one of the leading runners fell. Fourth-year Michael Frasco was able to avoid the fallen runner, but the other South Siders were not as lucky.

The rest of the team got caught in the fray and tumbled to the floor. Pushed to the back of the pack, frazzled, and tired from the collision the Maroon team struggled to make up the necessary ground. Frasco placed well earning 78th with a time of 25:24.90, but the rest of the squad was not as lucky. Disappointed, yet understanding, the Chicago men took 31st place in the field of 32 teams.

First-year runner Owen Melia echoed Minnie’s sentiments, after driving up the morning of the meet to watch his teammates race. “It was so great to see the teams race on the biggest stage this weekend. The energy from the field and the crowd was amazing.”

Much like any other sport, the experience gained from participating in a national championship is truly immeasurable. As such, having both the men and women reach nationals this year not only speaks to the quality of this year’s teams, but also provides hope for the years to come.