By Jennifer Zahn l FloTrack
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Darin Lau won his first NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship on Saturday after years of coming close, while the North Central men continued one of the greatest dynasties in the NCAA in any sport, at any level.
For Al Carius's Cardinal men, it was their second title in a row, fifth in eight years, and eighteenth overall.
COMPLETE 2017 NCAA DIII XC CHAMPIONSHIPS RESULTS
Final Team Scores:
- 1. North Central, 57
- 2. UW-La Crosse, 196
- 3. Christopher Newport, 221
- 4. Amherst, 251
- 5. Washington U., 269
- 6. Pomona-Pitzer, 282
- 7. UW-Eau Claire, 283
- 8. Haverford, 295
- 9. Loras, 301
- 10. Carleton, 308
North Central's win was powered by four underclassmen in the top 17: freshman and Colorado transfer Jared Borowsky was the runner-up, while juniors Dhruvil Patel, Al Baldonaldo, and Matthew Norvell were third, eighth, and 17th, respectively. It was the second-straight top-20 national finish for Patel and Baldonaldo, and a huge race for the latter: he was only third in his conference and 12th in the Midwest region.
Potential challenges from UW-La Crosse and Haverford never materialized, and North Central turned in one of the most dominant team performances in Division III history. A year after setting the DIII record for margin of victory with a 144-point blowout last year, they won by 139 points this year. And they return five of their top seven for next year.
Top 10 Individual Results:
- 1. 24:03 SR Darin Lau, UW-Eau Claire
- 2. 24:12 FR Jared Borowsky, North Central
- 3. 24:14 JR Dhruvil Patel, North Central
- 4. 24:19 JR Grant O'Connor, RPI
- 5. 24:20 SR Grayson Reid, Christopher Newport
- 6. 24:32 SR Isaac Garcia-Cassani, SUNY Geneseo
- 7. 24:32 JR Brad Hodkinson, Pacific Lutheran
- 8. 24:34 JR Al Baldonaldo, North Central
- 9. 24:36 SR David O'Gara, Washington U.
- 10. 24:37 JR Ian McVey, Ohio Northern
For Lau, he picked up his first national title by doing exactly what he said he'd do before the race: hammer the pace from the start, with no fear of the conditions or being kicked down. A pure strength runner, Lau had been nipped prominently several times before.
At Pre-Nationals on the same course six weeks ago, he let the pace dawdle and got smoked by the mile speed of Isaac Garcia-Cassani in the last kilometer. And at outdoor nationals in the 10K last May, he said, Ian LaMere beat him by an agonizing 0.04 seconds. Lau made sure that wouldn't happen today, building a gap early in the race and steadily growing it over the dips and dives of the hilly course.
North Central was a clear favorite, and Lau was probably a co-favorite.
But the most stunning men's finish of the day came from Christopher Newport. No team from the South/Southeast region had ever finished in the top 10 nationally, but under first-year head coach Sarah Lagasse, the Captains were third on Saturday. They graduate nearly everyone, but behind the astonishingly consistent old guard, new programs are slowly heading towards the top of DIII.