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PELLA — It was a trial run for the Central College women’s cross country meet Saturday, dropping a narrow decision in a dual with Nebraska Wesleyan University but gaining another opportunity to prepare for the American Rivers Conference Championships in two weeks.

That meet will be on the same Central College Cross Country Course as Saturday’s competition. But the Dutch were minus two of their usual top seven runners due to health protocols. The University of Dubuque was not able to compete in the scheduled triangular.

Still, Caroline McMartin (freshman, Pella), continuing the build on a promising rookie campaign, was Central’s top runner for the second straight time, placing third in 23:46.6 on the 6,000-meter course.

“She ran a great race,” coach Joe Dunham said. “She’s improving. Her fitness is improving dramatically.”

Mari Stein (junior, Okoboji) was fourth (24:14.7), freshman Lindsey Davidson (Northwood, Northwood-Kensett HS) was fifth (24:35.0), Lauren Coon (sophomore, Oskaloosa) was eighth (25:34.2), Kate Hoogensen (freshman, Ankeny, Centennial HS) was ninth (25:35.1), Abby Alberti (freshman, Harlan) was 12th, matching her season-best time (25:50.6) and Lauren Miller (sophomore, Dubuque) was 14th (26:28.6).

Nebraska Wesleyan’s Madi Bahe won in 23:08.9.

“Missing two of our runners took its toll on us today, but we were still within three points of Nebraska Wesleyan, which is a very good team,” coach Joe Dunham said. “So I was very pleased with the way they competed.”

With the cancelation of NCAA fall championships, the Saturday, Nov. 7 American Rivers meet will mark the season’s end for the Dutch. The women’s race starts at 2 p.m. at the with the men’s race at 2:45 p.m. The Dutch were a distant fifth in last year’s meet, four points ahead of sixth-place Buena Vista. Wartburg College topped Luther College for the team title followed by Loras College and Nebraska Wesleyan. Dunham is hopeful of a better showing but also wary of the competition.

“Wartburg is kind of at the top again but then I think it’s going to be another between Luther, Central, Simpson, Nebraska Wesleyan and Loras.”

It will be Central’s third home meet of the season, an obvious advantage, Dunham said.

“I think it plays a role in preparation,” he said. “Obviously we can do workouts out here so that’s a big deal and will come into play in how we do.”

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