Runners make strong showing at nationals

Polk County Itemizer-Observer

SPOKANE, Wash. — Western Oregon University’s men’s cross country team made its second straight trip to the NCAA Division II National Championships a memorable one by placing 14th on Saturday, Nov. 19, in cold and snowy running conditions.

The Wolves improved upon their 20th-place finish at the 2010 championships by collecting 374 team points.

Connor Kasler led the way, placing 49th overall with a time of 32 minutes, 20.2 seconds over the 10K Plante’s Ferry Athletic Complex course.

“Everyone is pleased with the finish, but no one is satisfied,” Western Oregon head coach Mike Johnson said. “While we are pleased with what we have accomplished there is still much work to be done.”

Dan Sprinkle was the second finisher for the Wolves as he placed 54th with a time of 32:29.0.

This made Western Oregon’s two repeat GNAC All-Academic performers the top two finishers for the team in each of the three races during the championship season (GNACs, Regionals and NCAAs).

Senior Kyle Larson capped his Western Oregon cross country career by placing 92nd in the meet with a time of 33:22.1.

Lukas Fenley and Ryan Chapman rounded out the scoring for the Wolves. Fenley was the 106th finisher at the meet with a time of 33:37.3, while Chapman placed 131st with a time of 34:02.1.

Western Oregon received alternate scoring times from Drew Larson (126th, 34:22.7) and Brady Beagley (137th, 34:45.5).

“I am very proud of each of these guys,” Johnson said. “They all have many more miles ahead of them, and many have just started their championship careers.”

Ryan Haebe, a sophomore from Western State, won the men’s national championship in 30:45.1.

Western State, which placed its top five runners among the top 13 finishers, easily won the team title with 27 points.

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