LCSC men, Marks, and Klettke all claim FC cross country titles
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The Lewis-Clark State College men’s cross country team, along with individuals David Marks and Kelsey Klettke, made it 4-for-4 at the Frontier Conference championships on Friday, but the Warrior women had to settle for a close second-place finish in its attempt for another crown.
The Warrior men put on an impressive performance to win the conference title for the fourth straight season and also had the individual winner in Marks, which also was the fourth straight time an LCSC runner has claimed the conference’s title and Runner of the Year award.
The same is true with Klettke as she captured the women’s title going away, but it wasn’t enough to help the Warriors claim the title as Carroll became the first team other than the Warriors to capture the title.
“I don’t think we can justify feeling too bad,” Warrior coach Mike Collins said of the day. “The women ran their best team race of the year. It was just short of what we needed so I feel bad for them.”
By winning the titles, the Warrior men and Carroll women earn automatic berths to the NAIA National Championships on Nov. 20 at Vancouver, Wash. The top five finishers not from the championship teams also qualify, which means at least four LCSC women runners will compete at the meet.
The Warrior women, ranked No. 24 in the NAIA, are also on the bubble of receiving an at-large berth to the meet. Collins said the final poll won’t be released until either Sunday or Monday and the Warriors will have to move up into the top 20 to get a berth.
Marks, a sophomore from Lake Oswego, Ore., continued his strong season by claiming the men’s 8-kilometer race by nearly 20 seconds on a somewhat hilly golf course. Marks finished in 26 minutes, 9.5 seconds and led five Warrior finishers among the top nine placers.
“I don’t want to say I was shocked, but I was pretty impressed with what the men did today,” Collins said. “That might have been the single most dominating performance since I’ve been coaching and I say that despite sweeping the top five spots in this meet before. The performance today was pretty dominating.”
Juniors Fernando Esperanza and Grant Eldridge finished third and sixth, respectively, while seniors Chris McConnell and Jake Miller were seventh and ninth to give the Warriors a team score of 26. Great Falls finished a distant second at 58.
“Great Falls is a good team but we beat them by an average of nearly one minute per guy,” Collins said. “I was pretty impressed, especially because we were missing one of our top five guys.”
Sean Huey, who won this meet a year ago, was ill and didn’t make the trip, but it didn’t matter as LCSC had seven runners in the top 18. The top 10 finishers in each race earn all-conference honors. LCSC led the way with five, while Great Falls and Rocky Mountain had two each.
On the women’s side, LCSC had five runners in the top 10 and seven runners in the top 12, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Carroll, which had four runners in the top seven and then managed to have its fifth runner finish at No. 15. That helped Carroll claim the top spot with 31 points, while LCSC had 33 points.
“I thought the women raced really well,” Collins said. “They wanted to win the meet and we knew it would be close, but they beat us pretty handily at home (in the LCSC Invitational). I think, in some ways, that helped the girls get focused. They knew they were going to have to race well and had a good race plan. We wanted to stick with their No. 2-5 finishers.
Klettke, a junior from Vancouver, Wash., ran away with the women’s 5-kilometer title in 18.36.8, while her nearest competitor was almost 30 seconds behind. Stephanie Shuel, who won the race two years ago, was fifth, while Amanda Palmer, Madison Randall, Shaelie Edwards, Jessie Gulsvig, and Chelsey Leighton finished Nos. 8-12 for the Warriors.
“Kelsey is just a far more talented runner right now and ran a strong race,” Collins said. “I was pretty proud of the team’s effort, but I know they are disappointed. We will cross our fingers and hope for the best with the rankings.”
Collins said because of the high altitude and the grassy course, the times would appear to be slow.
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