Men finish second, women finish fourth at WIAC cross country meet

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Five points separated the UW-Eau Claire team from winning their first conference title since 1980.

Instead, they ended up finishing second with 58 points for the second consecutive year as UW-La Crosse repeated as WIAC conference champions, finishing with 53 points overall.

Sophomore Christian Leitner said the results give the team more motivation as they move toward regionals.

“It was a pretty intense race. We haven’t been that close to (La Crosse) in a long time,” Leitner said. “To come that close and just miss it, it’s definitely disappointing but at the same time it makes us want to beat them even more in two weeks where it really counts.”

Head coach Dan Schwamberger said the team got closer in points to La Crosse as they went through the season.

“It was close but I feel like when we faced them at our home meet in early October, they were around 40 points and we were around 100 points, so I’m really pleased with the way we were able to close that gap,” Schwamberger said.

Five of the seven Eau Claire runners finished in the top 20. Sophomore Ryan Mugan continued leading the Blugolds by placing fifth and breaking the 25-minute barrier again with a time of 24:47. Senior Matt Scott followed in seventh place with a time of 24:51, and sophomore Nick Petersson ended in 13th place with a time of 25:05.

The top two teams that finish at regionals automatically qualify to compete at NCAA nationals. But for the first time ever, there are a limited number of at-large bids for each region.

Leitner said right now is the most important time of the year for the team.

“It seems like, at this point, the season’s just begun,” Leitner said. “We’ve only got done with the first part of our season in my eyes.”

Women finish fourth, tie with River Falls in points

For the first time since 2007, the UW-Eau Claire women’s cross country team are not conference champions.

Their six-year reign come to an end Saturday afternoon, finishing in fourth place but tying UW-River Falls in points with 86 points total. UW-La Crosse became the new conference champions, finishing with 34 points.

Sixty-four seconds separated Eau Claire’s first runner from its seventh runner. Senior Nikki Rendler finished first for the Blugolds in 11th place with a time of 22:51 while senior Alana Jenkins followed on her heels in 12th place with a time of 22:52. Sophomore Lucy Ramquist finished 16th with a time of 22:59.

 Schwamberger said he was glad the younger members of the team stepped up and progressed in their running.

 “Our seniors ran well and our juniors ran well, but it was nice to see that we had some freshman really perform well too,” Schwamberger said. “That’s encouraging not only for this year but looking toward the future.”

 Now that the conference meet is over, the team will attempt to qualify for NCAA nationals by competing in the regional meet in two weeks, with the top two teams in that regional advancing automatically and the rest running for at-large bids. Senior Jami Riley said they are preparing the same way for it.

 “Distance running is mostly about consistency, so when we prepare for regionals, we treat it just like any other race,” Riley said. “It’s at the end of the season, so we want to be running our fastest.”

Half of both of the teams compete at 4:30 p.m. on Friday at Luther College for the JV Cup.  The teams will then travel to Augustana College in Augustana, Illinois for the NCAA regional meet at noon on Saturday, Nov. 16.