GENEVA, Ill. — Central College’s Noah Jorgenson (junior, Sidney) and Caleb Silver (senior, Conrad, BCLUW HS) both put themselves in position for berths in the NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country Championships with lofty finishes at the Midwest Regional meet Saturday at the Northwestern Medicine Cross Country Course in Geneva.
Jorgenson was eighth in the region in 25:19.2 on the 8,000-meter course after placing 28th in last year’s regional meet. Silver, eyeing his second NCAA national meet trip, was 13th Saturday in 25:26.0 after placing 12th in last year’s regional.
The national meet will be staged at noon (Eastern Time) next Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Forest Akers Cross Country Course in Lansing, Michigan. The race field will be announced Sunday afternoon.
Despite a lineup that was ravaged by injuries and illness, Central finished seventh of 32 teams at the regional Saturday after placing sixth of 30 teams a year ago. North Central College (Ill.), ranked No. 3 nationally, took the regional crown with 41 points followed by No. 5 Wartburg College at 55. No. 22 Loras College nipped the No. 24 University of Chicago, 112-113 with No. 26 Washington University-St. Louis (Mo.) at 123. Luther College was sixth at 196 while Central had 205 and Simpson College was eighth at 251.
Derek Webster (sophomore, Norwalk) was 52nd in in 28:21.1, followed by Cutler Owens (5th-year, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) in 60th in 26:39.3 after finishing 99th in last year’s regional, freshman Joey Hovinga (freshman, Forest City), making his first varsity appearance, was 74th in 27:04.4, Ben DeValk (sophomore, Solon) was 92nd in 27:21.8 and Jacob Sanders (senior, Nevada) was 95th in 27:23.6.
Central was without three of its usual top seven runners, Kenny Cronin (sophomore, Des Moines, Davis County HS), Adam Sylvia (senior, Rochester, Mass., Old Rochester HS) and Randy Jimenez (sophomore, Liberty Center, Southeast Warren HS).
The top team in each of 10 regions is automatically selected to advance to Michigan. But an additional 22 teams are selected at-large and with two of the nation’s top six ranked squads in North Central and Wartburg, the Midwest Region will likely have at least two selected. The top seven individual finishers in the region who are not part of a qualifying team also advance. Jorgenson was the No. 3 finisher among runners not from North Central or Wartburg and Silver was sixth.
Both Jorgenson and Silver surged down the stretch. Jorgenson was in 13th midway through the race before jumping five spots while Silver was in 23rd, then pushed his way past 10 runners for 13th.
“We talked about having a strong second half and being in position early but not panicking,” Dunham said. “(The leaders) went out pretty slow. The first mile was 5:12 which is really slow for those guys. That kind of bottled everything up a little bit. But it started to open up after the first mile. Noah and Caleb didn’t try to lead but they just stayed within the top groups and then their second half of the race was really great.”
Missing the meet was obviously a huge disappointment for Cronin, Sylvia and Jimenez. Sylvia couldn’t even travel to the meet due to illness.
“It was really hard for him,” Dunham said. “He really loves the team and it was tough for him to not be with his guys during the most important race of the year. And it was really hard on Kenny and Randy, too, to not be out there running for the Dutch.”
But Central got a big lift from their replacements.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Joey (Hovinga), Jacob (Sanders) and Ben (DeValk),” Dunham said. “All three of those guys stepped in and really ran a great race. I think it just showed how much they care about their teammates and their desire to give everything they had out there.”
Dunham said Webster’s performance stood out as well.
“Derek Webster had an unbelievable race,” he said. “He has improved dramatically this year. He’s looking good for the future.”
Silver was 89th at last year’s national meet.
“Caleb’s obviously had some experience,” Dunham said. “He’s been there before and knows what to expect going in. But Noah has run at the national meet in track and I don’t think he will be even remotely fazed by the competition. So both of them are going to try to be all-Americans. That’s the goal. We’ll prepare this week and try to get them as sharp as we can.”