Men's CC fourth at conference for third straight year

By Rebecca DeJarlais

On paper, the results of Saturday’s MIAC men’s cross country meet may seem lackluster to Macalester fans, with the team unable to crack into the top three with a fourth-place finish. But behind the numbers, the race revealed an established program and impressive improvement. With only two seniors in the top 12 at MIAC, there’s also tremendous potential for the upcoming Central Region meet, and races to come.

“Overall the team definitely needs to be proud of itself for what it did,” Roscoe Sopiwnik ’06 said. “The top five stuck with it and that signified what really happened on Saturday. We created the expectation that we’re going to be one of the top teams in the conference, and with that comes confidence.”

Dylan Keith ’07 and Sopiwnik were Macalester’s individual standouts on Saturday, earning All-Conference honors by placing eighth in 26:26 and 11th in 26:36, respectively.

David Augustson ’07 continued his season-long upswing and missed the All-Conference cut-off by one place with a 16th-place, 26:49 race.

Sophomores Nate Crider and Matt Wegmann, as the fourth and fifth runners, grabbed the last two scoring spots for the Mac Pack with 27th and 44th place finishes.

In the team standings, Hamline dominated the meet with a commanding 32 points and runners finishing second, fourth, seventh,ninth and 10th overall. Carleton and St. Olaf sneaked in ahead of Macalester, whose meet highlights included beating St. Thomas for the first time ever and edging out No. 22-ranked St. John’s for the fourth-place spot.

Head Coach Matt Haugen praised his team for finishing fourth for the third year in a row and called Sopiwnik, Keith and Augustson “the best 1-2-3 punch in 25 years” at Macalester.

“This fourth-place finish speaks of a tradition, a culture, an expectation that we are one of the top four teams,” Haugen said. “It comes down to pride in the program and work ethic, and it’s extremely fulfilling to have this.”

Part of Macalester’s success can be attributed to significant individual improvement from last season. On paper, Macalester was ranked sixth going into the race because of graduation losses. Keith moved from 23rd place at last year’s MIAC meet to 8th this year. Augustson went from 51st to 16th, and Crider from 50th to 27th. The team’s sixth and seventh runners, Said Guled ’07 and Zak Morrow ’08, both improved by about 35 spots. The Central Regional meet on Nov. 12 in Waverly, Iowa, will determine whether the team’s season will continue with a trip to Nationals.

“We’re going to have to beat St. John’s and St. Thomas and someone else,” Haugen said, predicting that three MIAC schools will earn national bids at the region meet. “We’re on the verge of putting a real stamp on the program.”

The Mac Pack has a unique chance this year because of an exceptionally deep region. In regional competition, the number of team bids has traditionally depended on how the region’s qualifying teams performed at Nationals the previous year.

Because of last season’s performances, the top five teams from Macalester’s region will be appearing at Nationals this year. There will also be four individual bids, which go to runners who didn’t qualify with their team.

“We all know we have as good a shot as anyone else,” Augustson said. “We just have stay relaxed.