ROCK ISLAND, ILL. — With one of its strongest showings of the season, the Central College men’s cross country team smashed several career-best times Saturday and is in position to send a pair of runners to the NCAA Division III Championships.
The Dutch posted a sixth-place finish in the 24-team NCAA Division III Midwest Regional Championships at Saukie Golf Course in Rock Island, Illinois.
Caleb Silver (junior, Conrad, BCLUW HS) raced to 12th place in 24:45.8 on the 8,000-meter course. That’s 38 seconds under his career-best time of 25:24 run on the same course Oct. 1 and easily outdistances his 63rd-place showing in the 2019 regional.
Will DeHaan (senior, DeWitt, Central DeWitt HS) followed closely in 14th in 24:48.5, more than 32 seconds under his previous best of 25:21 and well under his 2019 regional finish of 42nd.
Coach Joe Dunham expects both to be on the list Sunday afternoon when the field is announced for the national meet next Saturday at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky. The top seven runners outside of the teams selected for the national meet will advance. They would be Central’s first men’s national qualifiers since Mark Fairley and Tanner Rathje made the trip in 2017.
“Those were enormous PRs for the guys,” Dunham said. “They were running in a zone they hadn’t run in before and I really can’t say enough about their mental toughness and their desire just to do it for their teammates. I thought all seven ran remarkably well.”
The five teams finishing in front of Central were all nationally ranked as three Dutch runners gained all-region distinction.
It was a bounceback performance for the Dutch, who were a disappointing fifth in the American Rivers Championships Oct. 30. Central raced past two of the teams it placed behind that day, Simpson College and Luther College.
The top-ranked team in Division III, Wartburg College, was first with 38 points while 14th-ranked Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) followed with 86, No. 9 North Central College (Ill.) was third with 90, the No. 16 University of Chicago was fourth with 104 and No. 14 Loras College was fifth with 148. Central compiled 167, while Simpson was seventh with 167 and Luther was eighth at 186.
Noah Jorgenson (sophomore, Sidney) joined Silver and DeHaan as an all-region honoree, placing 25th in 25:05.3, 39 seconds under his career fastest time. Thatcher Krob (senior, Lisbon) was 54th in 25:52.7, topping his previous best of 26:11, Easton Sabala (senior, Wheatland, Mo., Hermitage HS) was 59th in 26:01.5, under his career best of 26:26. Adam Sylvia (junior, Rochester, Mass., Old Rochester HS) was 76th in 26:25.8 and Randy Jimenez (freshman, Liberty Center, Southeast Warren HS) was 85th in 26:45.8.
“They came in really dialed in and focused,” Dunham said. “It was great to see them do the things they did today. I think they’re a very confident bunch right now. We have always known they could do it.”
Dunham said running on the same course as the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational Oct. 1 where they performed well gave the Dutch a mental boost.
“It’s a course they’ve run well so they knew they could do something great,” he said. “That’s half the battle right there, having that confidence before the gun goes off.”