The UW-Eau Claire cross country team walked away from the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship this past Saturday with a handful of victories, securing both team and individual bids for the National competition next weekend.
On the women’s side, the Blugolds took first place overall, achieving an automatic team slot at Nationals. Eau Claire landed five individual finishers in the top 25, earning the lowest score of 59 points. Sam Slattery, a junior, was the fastest Blugold, taking fifth place in a time of 20:53.90. Callie Fischer, a senior, followed in eighth place, crossing the finish line in 21:09.0.
“I think we were all a little nervous, but we all knew the race plan and knew we were ready to do it, so we went into the race feeling pretty confident and relaxed,” Fischer said. “When we found out we won we were all super excited, and that got us really pumped up for next weekend.”
Mel Becker, a senior, rounded out the top ten for Eau Claire, securing ninth in a time of 21:11.40. Morgan Marek, a junior, finished next, taking 13th in 21:22.40. Within the next 20 seconds, Lizzy Cisewski, a first-year competitor, slid into one of the final spots in the top 25, earning 24th place with a time of 21:39.90.
Looking to next week, Fischer said she has high hopes both for the team and for her final race as a Blugold.
“Moving toward Nationals, we have pretty big goals,” Fischer said. “This weekend showed us we are ready to perform at Nationals, and that we definitely have the potential to place.This has been our dream goal for the season, and we have shown we are ready to achieve it. Personally, I hope to leave everything on the course for my last cross country race.”
On the men’s side, Eau Claire took fourth place overall and secured a team bid to Nationals. Two Blugolds earned individual top 25 finishes, earning 133 points. Darin Lau, a senior, took first place, finishing the course more than 15 seconds ahead of the next competitor in a time of 23:21.50.
“I just wanted to race efficiently,” Lau said. “I felt like I did a good job at making the race honest, yet still running relatively relaxed.”
Riley Huffman, a senior, rounded out the top 25 for the Blugolds, taking 23rd place in a time of 24:14.50.
For Lau’s last race of his collegiate career, he said he is looking to finish on top.
“Individually, I’m looking for the win,” Lau said. “I understand there are plenty of runners who have that same mentality. However, I can only control myself, and if I race well, I think the result will please me.”
The NCAA Division III National competition will take place this Saturday at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. The men’s race will begin at 11 a.m. and the women’s race will follow at 12:15 p.m.