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Women’s Cross Country 2nd at National Meet - Men’s Cross Country 5th

Saturday, November 22, 2008

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(written by Bruce VanBaren)

Hanover, Ind.- Top ranked Middlebury jumped Calvin’s women’s cross country team earlier this week in the national rankings. In Saturday’s NCAA III Championships at Hanover College, the Panthers did just that to edge out the second-ranked Knights to take their fifth NCAA title this decade. The Knights’ second place finish was their best since winning the national title in 1999.

It also marks the fourth national runner-up finish in Calvin women’s cross country history with the Knights also taking second in 1992, 1993 and 1994. In addition, it marks the 13th national runner-up performance by a Calvin athletics team with the men’s cross country team doing so four times, the women’s track and field team doing so three times and the men’s track and field and women’s volleyball team doing so once.

Middlebury won the title with a team score of 179. The Panthers also won the 2003 championship held at Hanover. Calvin totaled 237 pointes and held onto second place by just three points over Williams College. Wartburg finished in fourth and Wisconsin-Eau Claire took fifth.

“It was mostly relief (when I found out we took second),” coach Brian Diemer said. “The team scores were really high because there was no dominate team out there that took a lot of the top spots. I looked at how our women and we had a few gaps. We didn’t run as well as what we ran last week at regionals.”

Lauren Bergstrom (21:32), who led Calvin with a fifth place finish at regionals a week ago, finished 21st to once again lead the Knights. Bergstrom rebounded from a poor showing at the 2003 regionals held at Hanover to take her first career cross-country all-American honors. Bergstrom has also garnered all-American honors in track and field.

“I was ecstatic (about the second place finish),” Bergstrom said. “We were a little caught off guard. Everyone was like ‘what just happened?’ But in the end it worked out and we’re very happy with our performance. It’s not the (outcome) we wanted, but I think we should still be proud of it because we gave it our all.”

Bergstrom picked off several runners over the final 800-meters as she clicked it into high gear.

“Lauren ran a fantastic race and she finished strong,” Diemer said. “She kicked down a lot of people over the last half mile. It was a blast to watch her just move through the field and finish strong.”

Calah Schlabach (21:55) nipped at Bergstrom’s heels through the first half of the race, but tailed off over the final thousand meters. Schlabach just missed a top-35 finish and all-American honors, finishing 42nd. Schlabach finished ten spots better than her 2007 national performance.

“Calah ran tough I’m really proud of her,” Diemer said. “She was in that bubble where all the all-Americans come from. With a mile to go she was 33rd; (it was) just a valiant performance and I’m very proud of her.”

Jesi Hale (22:22) took 88th and Kelly Edwards (22:23) nearly passed her at the finish, taking 90th. Edwards trailed Hale much of the raise, but closed quickly over the final two-thousand meters. Liz Smit (22:40) held on to a 127th place finish to allow Calvin to hold on to second place.

“If these women hadn’t gone for every position they could have we probably wouldn’t have taken second,” Diemer said. “The national meet is incredibly tough and it’s easy to get discouraged and not keep running through. But every little bit counts and our women (ran like) that today. Kelly (Edwards) stormed on home in the last two miles. She just ran a fantastic race and that probably allowed us to get second place.”

Nicole Farr (23:13) finished 186th, but was not part of Calvin’s total points. Jessica Koster (24:54), who missed last weeks regional with a back injury, fought for a 276th place finish.

Calvin finished fourth a year ago and third in 2007. The Knights were making their fourth consecutive appearance at nationals, including their 19th overall which ranks fourth on the all-time NCAA III women’s cross country list. The Knights were the Great Lakes regional champions and the MIAA champions.

Men’s cross-country snaps streak

Calvin’s men’s cross-country team has gotten used to holding a trophy at nationals. The Knights entered Saturday’s NCAA III Champions having appeared on the podium with a top four finish for ten straight years. Jed Christiansen and Erik VanKampen garnered all-American honors, but the Knights snapped their streak with a fifth-place finish.

“It’s difficult to swallow,” coach Brian Diemer said. “We’ve been up on this award stand for a number of years and we wanted to stay. We didn’t quite have the race we were hoping to have. These guys ran well all year. (The national meet) is a tough thing; everyone comes with their best.”

Top ranked Cortland State University (NY) claimed its first national championship placing three runners in the top fifteen. North Central missed their 13th national title by 25 points with a team score of 115. Williams took third place, while Wisconsin-Stevens Point edged out Calvin for the final spot on the podium. Calvin totaled 239 points, 38 points out of fourth place.

“It’s not what we expected or hoped for,” DeHaan said. “It’s pretty disappointing. We were hoping to be in that top spot. There are a lot of things that can happen in such a big race and it just didn’t go our way.”

Calvin didn’t get the start it was looking for. Nate DeHaan burst to the front for the Knights followed closely by VanKampen, while the Knights’ usual leader, Christiansen, was caught well behind all six Calvin runners.

“We were out good (from the start) except Jed was out back,” Diemer said. “VanKampen and DeHaan were kind of looking around (thinking) ‘where’s Jed, where’s Jed?’” That throws a little bit of wonder like ‘hey what’s going on, are we ok here?’”

Christiansen, who finished sixth, acknowledged he didn’t get off to a good start.

“It was disappointing,” Christiansen said. “I didn’t get out as well as I would have liked. With so many runners collapsing just 600 meters into the race, you can’t really go anywhere.”

DeHaan and VanKamen usually run right with Christiansen and were thrown off when the Great Lakes Regional champion wasn’t out front to set the pace.

“We knew we had to get out to quick,” DeHaan said. “I went out fast because I wanted to make sure that we had a good start. Erik ended up being right next to me after 400-800 meters so we started running together, but I didn’t see Jed yet and I wasn’t sure what was going on there. I didn’t end up seeing him until like halfway through.”

Christiansen burst past VanKampen and DeHaan with about 5K left, but by then he was carrying too much steam to take his teammates with him.

“We ran a tough race, but we have to run a little bit better together,” Diemer said. “I just wish (Jed) could have taken along a couple of his teammates. That’s what it’s all about is running together. There’s a lot of power (in teamwork). Sometimes you learn it by doing it the right way and sometimes you learn by doing it the wrong way.”

VanKampen (24:52) finished in 23rd place. Dan VandeAkker (25:26) took 74th, while DeHaan (23:35), who led Calvin’s pack for the first half of the race, trailed off to finish 94th. Tim Langenburg (25:49) was Calvin’s final points runner, finishing 140th. Jake Christiansen (25:57) finished 163rd and George Visser (26:35) took 248th.

With a sixth place finish, Christiansen became just the 14th four time NCAA III all-American. Christiansen was recently named the Great Lakes Regional Athlete of the year for the second straight year and was named the MIAA Most Valuable Runner. He was also on the All-MIAA first team four straight years, becoming just the 16th individual in MIAA cross country history to do so.

“Jed has been a tremendous kid to work with,” Diemer said. “I love working with him because he gives it his all. I’m very proud of him being a four-time all-American. That’s a feat that very few people do. I’m going to miss him.”

Although disappointed with the team’s finish, Christiansen acknowledged the significance of his individual accomplishments. Christiansen narrowly made the top 35 cut a year ago with a 33rd place finish.

“Coming into Calvin I wasn’t sure if I would ever be an all-American,” Christiansen said. “I was surprised my freshman year to take 31st. It was really cool (to be an all-American) despite a subpar race last year. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of that group of people and to be a four time all-American.”

Van Kampen garnered all-American honors for the third straight year. He was last week’s Great Lakes Regional runner up. VanKampen was 17th in 2006 and 35th in 2007. He was named to the Great Lakes All-Regional team for the second straight team and the all-MIAA first team for a third straight year.

“I saw Erik at about the 300 meter point of the race put up his hand so his teammates could see him,” Diemer said. “He was trying to rally the team around him and give them something to key off. What a tremendous kid, just a great competitor who always came to run at the big races. He’s a big part of the heart and sole of this program.”

Calvin was making its 16th consecutive appearance to the national tournament, including their 24th overall which ranks fourth on the all time NCAA III men’s cross country list.

Brian Diemer Audio Interview

Lauren Bergstrom Audio Interview

Audio With Christiansen, DeHaan & VanKampen

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2 comments on "Women’s Cross Country 2nd at National Meet - Men’s Cross Country 5th"
  • Erik V.K.  Congratulations to you and your team on a great year. Way to go All American!!!

    Posted by ron&peg;becvar on 11/24 at 07:51 PM
  • Lauren, it is great to hear that you all gave it your best, and congratulations on your great finish!! I am very excited for you all-
    Congratulation!! Aunt Ann

    Posted by ann larson on 11/24 at 07:32 PM