UW-Eau Claire Cross Country finishes season on top at NCAA Division III Nationals

    The Blugolds earned a runner-up team trophy and individual championship title this weekend

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    Eau Claire came home from NCAA Division III Nationals with a women’s second place team trophy and an individual national champion.

    The UW-Eau Claire cross country team concluded its season on Saturday in victorious fashion, coming home from the NCAA Division III National Championships at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois with multiple top finishes, including a runner-up team title for the women and an individual championship title on the men’s side from Darin Lau, a senior.

    Callie Fischer, also a senior, said although the race went by fast, encouragement from cheering fans and supporters helped the team succeed.

    “The race went by in a blur, but it definitely felt very intense and fast,” Fischer said. “It really helped having so many fans cheering us on. We all crossed the finish line knowing we gave it everything we had, and everyone had a great day.”

    On the women’s side, three individual top finishes helped Eau Claire secure the second place team trophy. Sam Slattery, a junior, led the way for the Blugolds, taking 17th overall with a time of 21:08.30. Melody Becker, a senior, earned the second slot, crossing the finish line in 26th place with a time of 21:23:30. Just over 10 seconds later, Fischer rounded out the individual top 35, taking 35th place in 21:33.50.

    Fischer said hearing the results alongside her team after the race is a moment she will never forget.

    We knew we were capable of placing, but actually hearing the official results and realizing we did accomplish the goal we had set at the very beginning of the season was so amazing,” Fischer said. “It was so incredible and rewarding to be a part of such a successful team and season. None of us could stop smiling the rest of the weekend.”

    On the men’s side, two individual top finishes allowed for Eau Claire to take home seventh place overall. Lau concluded his collegiate cross country with one last win under his belt, crossing the finish line in 24:04.59 and successfully earning the individual national title. Riley Huffman, a senior, secured 44th place for the Blugolds in a time of 25:03.12.

    Lau said he will always cherish his final cross country race as a Blugold.

    “Crossing the finish line was a moment I will never forget,” Lau said. “I was honestly thinking about all the effort I put into this season when I was coming down the home stretch, knowing that it was all worth it. I was definitely overcome with emotions when I saw my teammates and my family at the finish line.”

    Looking forward, Eau Claire’s team will require rebuilding as many top finishers, including Lau, Fischer, Huffman and Becker are graduating seniors. However, the Blugolds will also have Slattery’s senior season to look forward to, as she has repeatedly finished on top for the team.

    Overall, as Fischer’s collegiate cross country career comes to an end, she said she will miss her teammates more than anything else.

    “The thing I will miss most about the team is the team itself,” Fischer said. “We have such an incredible support network, and my teammates have truly become my second family. I know I will stay close with so many people throughout the rest of my life, but I will really miss the countless hours spent with my teammates and coaches every day for four years.”

    The Blugolds will have a brief break before indoor track and field competition begins in January.