Soggy ending: UMD men third at final North Central Conference cross-country meet

CARLTON -- The final North Central Conference cross country championship meet -- the 87th for men and 27th for women -- went out in style Saturday at Pine Hill Golf Club.

CARLTON -- The final North Central Conference cross country championship meet -- the 87th for men and 27th for women -- went out in style Saturday at Pine Hill Golf Club.

Despite more than four inches of rain within 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday, which required redrawing the race courseFriday to avoid deep standing water, the event had decent footing on a nearly ideal50-degree running day.

Twelfth-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato won a fourth straight men's title, led by emerging sophomore star Denise Mokaya of Kenya, and No. 5 Augustana of Sioux Falls, S.D., won its first women's title, led by fifth-year senior Rachel Stangler of Albany, Minn.

It was the first victoryfor Mokaya at Mankato,finishing 8 kilometers in apersonal-best 24 minutes,46.5 seconds, while Stangler claimed her second NCC individual championship in 21:40.5 for 6 kilometers. She also won in 2004, was second in 2005 and took a medicalredshirt year off in 2006.

"I've been battling plantar fasciitis [a foot ailment] and I took time off, and that helped a lot," Stangler said. "Taking the time off made me ready for this season; I'm a better, stronger runner, and I got a chance to run on a really good team."


Coach Tracy Hellman's Augustana team is undefeated heading to the Division II North Central Regional meet Nov. 3 in Vermillion, S.D., as five runners placed in the NCC's top 12. South Dakota sophomore Ramsey Kavan was second to Stangler in 21:44.4, while defending champion Jillian Thole, an Augustana sophomore, was fourth in 22:10.5.

The Minnesota Duluth women were fourth among seven teams as sophomore Liz Palkie of Carlton was sixth in 22:18. The No. 19 UMD men placed third, five points behind second-place Augustana, and senior Eric Atkinson of Spooner, Wis., was third in a personal-best 24:54.3, three seconds behind runner-up James Krajsa of Mankato.

Palkie bettered her third-place NCC meet time of last season by 13 seconds.

"I wanted to go out hard and stick with the leaders, but I felt sluggish from the start," Palkie said. "There was some pretty tough footing on some of the turns, and it was muddy and wet, but I was satisfied with the race. I was happy with my time."

Atkinson led through the first mile on the 1,500-meter looped course in 4:43, a bit faster than planned, and held an advantage over Krajsa and Mokaya until less than two miles remained.

"It seems that almost every meet starts at a 4:55 to five-minute pace and it can turn into a large, chaotic group," said Atkinson, second at the 2006 NCC meet. "I wanted to go faster and I knew after the first mile that we had broken it down to a much smaller group. After a while it was just the three of us.

"One goal I had this season was to run my fastest 8K and my time [Saturday] tells me I'm in better shape than last year."

Mokaya, from Nairobi, is in his first season at Mankato after transferring from Friends University in Wichita, Kan. His season started slowly because of Achilles' heel problems, but coach Mark Schuck has recently increased Mokaya's training tempo.


His victory gave Mankato its first individual NCC title since a string of three straight by Joseph Kogo (1999) and Marty Rosendahl (2000 and 2001). Mokaya, 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds, started cautiously Saturday and bided his time.

"I wanted to stay behind and watch to see what the other guys were up to," Mokaya said. "The win was a surprise. But I knew I could win, I just didn't know when."

The Mankato women's team, which placed fifth, was competing three days after attending a memorial on campus for freshman teammate Katy Delwiche of Glencoe, Minn. Delwiche, 18, was struck and killed Oct. 2 by an SUV while running near the Mankato campus. Before the meet, a moment of silence was observed in Delwiche's honor.

The meet marked the first NCC championships to be decided in the last year of the conference. With North Dakota and South Dakota moving up to NCAA Division I, the league no longer had the requisite number of six schools for automatic NCAA berths and will disband after the school year.

North Central Conference

Cross Country Meet

At Carlton

Pine Hill Golf Club


Saturday's Results

Men's 8K

Teams -- 1. Minnesota State-Mankato 24, Augustana (S.D.) 62, 3. Minnesota Duluth 67, 4. South Dakota 99, North Dakota 120, 6. St. Cloud State, incomplete team.

Top 10 -- 1. Denise Mokaya, Mankato, 24:46.5; 2. James Krajsa, Mankato 24:51.6; 3. Eric Atkinson, UMD, 24:54.3; 4. Dan Ristau, Mankato, 25:30.7; 5. Matt Yaggie, South Dakota, 25:41.7; 6. Asle Tjelta, Augustana, 25:47; 7. Jeff Stuckenbroker, Mankato, 25:53.6; 8. Austin Vande Berg, Augustana, 25:54; 9. Mike Kramer, UMD, 25:54.7; 10. Ben Lungtvedt, Mankato, 25:59.1.

Other UMD -- 17. Zach Varty 26:23.1, 18. John Kallemeyn 26:29.5, 20. Nate Anderson 26:31, 23. Tyler Bjorhus 26:36.1, 36. Aaron Gorman 27:18.4.

Women's 6K

Teams -- 1. Augustana (S.D.) 36, 2. North Dakota 61, 3. South Dakota 62, 4. Minnesota Duluth 114, 5. Minnesota State-Mankato 115, 6. Nebraska-Omaha 147, 7. St. Cloud State 207.

Top 10 -- 1. Rachel Stangler, Augustana, 21:40.5; 2. Ramsey Kavan, South Dakota, 21:44.4; 3. Heidi Evans, North Dakota, 21:46.6; 4. Jillian Tholen, Augustana, 22:10.5; 5. Kaylen Harris, Neb.-Omaha, 22:14.6; 6. Liz Palkie, UMD, 22:18; 7. Renee Aune, North Dakota, 22:22.5; 8. Molly Clark, Augustana, 22:31.7; 9. Emma Erickson, South Dakota, 22:45.8; 10. Kristy Keithlev, North Dakota, 22:51.9.


Other UMD -- 18. Katelyn Meger 23:11, 30. Greta Stangl 24:08.2, 33. Bridget Hines 24:12.6, 35. Whitney Hines 24:16.6, 36. Rachal Hanzal 24:18.1, 37. Rachel Stack 24:21.3.

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