News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

November 18, 2012

Wisconsin-Stout senior hangs on for Division III title at LaVern Gibson

TERRE HAUTE — Saturday was a great day for Wisconsin-Stout senior Tim Nelson, who won the men’s 8-kilometer part of the NCAA Division III cross country championships at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.

But it almost took a bizarre twist at the end of the race.

Comfortably ahead of runner-up Allegheny junior Bobby Over with a few hundred yards to go, Nelson lacked energy and struggled to take each step before he finally reached the finish line. After crossing it, he needed help from meet officials to remain on his feet.

“I just had nothing left,” Nelson told the Tribune-Star after he regained his bearings. “I ran myself into the ground. With about a K [kilometer] to go, I really had spent everything I had. That last K, I was going off guts and adrenaline.”

He admitted that he wondered if he would be able to finish.

“I was actually getting pretty nervous with about 500 [meters] to go,” he said. “I was getting really nervous because I just had nothing.”

On a more positive note, Nelson said he started building a good-sized lead at the 3K mark.

“I was up toward the front from the get-go,” explained Nelson, who placed fourth in the Division III nationals last year. “I ran the first 2K kinda with everyone. Then going up the hill, I put a move on to try to not slow down. That was the gameplan. It was nice that I was able to get some separation [from the other lead runners] and come away with a win that I worked so hard for.”

Looking at the big picture, Nelson said “it means everything” to win his first national championship in his final collegiate cross country race. His time was 24 minutes, 26.8 seconds, still eight seconds ahead of Over.

In the women’s 6K, Wisconsin-Oshkosh senior Christy Cazzola pulled off a come-from-behind victory after trailing Amherst senior Keri Lambert, who ended up third, for most of the race. Ohio Northern senior Alison Steinbrunner rallied to finish second, about 15 1/2 seconds behind Cazzola.

“It feels amazing and is the experience of a lifetime,” proclaimed Cazzola, who finished in 20:53.3. “I think being a cross country national champ is different than being a track champion, so it’s definitely a dream come true.”

Team champions were North Central College (167 points) for the men and Johns Hopkins (158 points) for the women.

“The strategy was one word and one word alone, and that was the ‘team’ dynamic,” North Central men’s coach Allen Carius mentioned. “I know it sounds corny, but our strategy was to tap into the team. The team was going to carry us through the season and through this race.”

Junior John Crain was North Central’s top finisher as he placed sixth in 24:43.5.

This national title was the 15th for North Central in the 30-year history of the Division III cross country championships.

For Johns Hopkins in the women’s race, this was its first national championship in cross country ever.

“Much of our success involved setting the right mood and having our team enjoy the national championship atmosphere,” Johns Hopkins women’s coach Bobby Van Allen said. “As far as team tactics, we had our four, five and six really pack up and they did it perfectly. They all tied and that pretty much sealed it for us.”

Freshman Hannah Oneda was Johns Hopkins’ top finisher in 10th place (21:26.3).

The “national championship atmosphere” mentioned by Van Allen was noticeable from the late morning — when the temperature was 46 degrees for the start of the men’s race — through the early afternoon.

Even though the NCAA Division I cross country nationals took a one-year break from Terre Haute after it was conducted here from 2004 through 2011, the DIII version still provided the usual fun college antics — shirtless male student-fans with words of encouragement painted on their chests and stomachs, colorful school banners and team mascots.

Overall, there were 64 teams (32 men’s and 32 women’s) and a total of 557 runners who finished.

One of them was Manchester College junior Clayton Harlan, a 2010 Terre Haute South High School graduate who placed 244th in the men’s race.

“For my own standards, I kinda expected more,” he acknowledged. “I expected to be patient for the first couple miles, then pick off people, because that’s the way I race. … But I didn’t have much ‘go’ today. I just couldn’t get around people and I couldn’t get enough adrenaline going, even though the fans were great. It was tough for me because it’s all mental. Physically, I was there. But, mentally, I was off.”

Harlan said he had raced at the Gibson course “too many times to count” during his high school career, so it was nice to return.

“I know the course inside and out,” he emphasized. “The course was great today and the grass was mowed. Rose-Hulman did an excellent job hosting the national championships this year.”

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