Lawrence, Kansas – Lyle Pocha finished seventh and Leah Esposito finished 12th to lead the Carroll College cross country teams to their best-ever finishes at the NAIA National Championship.
The women finished fourth overall in team scoring and the men finished ninth.
“Both teams finish in the top ten and higher than any Carroll team has ever finish and higher than we were ranked all season,” head cross country coach David Morris said. “You really can’t hope for much better than that. I am really proud of all of our runners.
Lyle Pocha ran arguable his best race of the season. He worked his way into the lead pack early en route to the top-ten finish.
“Lyle went straight to the front, was aggressive and smart,” Morris said. “He was right in the top ten for the whole race, I figured he would be top 20 but seventh is awesome.”
Esposito was again the top Carroll finisher. Her 12th place finish was five spots lower than her finish in 2013.
“The field was much better for the elite finishers,” Morris said. She was a little disappointed with 12th place but any time you finish in the top 15 at nationals there isn’t anything to be ashamed of. She ran a pretty good race.”
The difference maker for the Carroll was the team’s depth. Six the seven racers finished in the top 100 for the women.
“Sandy (Torres) and Hanah (Hafner) raced really well today,” Morris said. “We had a lot more depth this meet than we previously had. Not everyone had their best race but our depth carried us. “
Coach Morris will have a little extra weight in his luggage for the ride home. The top four teams receive trophies. The performance fulfills a goal of the 2014 Saints.
“At the beginning of the season our goal was to get one of the trophies for the women and finish in the top 15 for the men,” Morris said. “To see that come to fruition is a pretty awesome. I am so proud of this group.”
HELENA, Mont. – The Carroll College men’s and women’s Cross Country teams will be among the field in the NAIA National Championship that will take place in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 22, the association announced today.
The Carroll men received an automatic bid after winning the Frontier/North Star Conference Championship. The Carroll Women received an At-Large bid because their top-10 ranking.
The Saints men were ranked 13th in the final NAIA polls, released yesterday. Lewis-Clark State, who took second in the Frontier/North Star championship, was ranked 14th.
The Carroll women came in at No. 6 in the final poll. Lewis-Clark State received the No. 4 position after beating the Saints by just two overall places in the conference race.
British Columbia was a unanimous No. 1 in the Women’s poll and Oklahoma City is No. 1 in the men’s poll.
By Kyle Sample, Helena IR
The last time David Morris thought his cross country teams were set up for success, the Saints made their coach appear prophetic.
In their last meet, Morris expected Carroll to do well at the flat, sea-level course that hosts NAIA West Coast Jamboree at Biola University. By the time they left California, Leah Esposito won the women’s race and both teams finished second in a field that included some of the best programs in the nation.
Heading into the Frontier/North Star Conference meet Friday at Amend Park in Billings, Morris again has a feeling the Saints will solidify their impressive national rankings -- the Saints’ women are fifth in the latest NAIA poll, while the men are 14th.
BILLINGS, Mont. – The Carroll College men’s cross country team won the team title and the women took second place at the Frontier/North Star Conference Championship Friday in Billings.
David Thor ran the course in 25:55.39 to take the men’s individual title and Leah Esposito ran the women’s course in 18:30.87, more than six second faster than the second place finisher to take the women’s individual title.
In the men’s section four of the top five finisher’s were Carroll runners.
“I am very proud of the way we raced today,” head cross country coach David Morris said. “I couldn’t believe the men’s results when I saw it, it was incredible. They just ran really smart and very patient. It was incredible.”
The great results for the men may have come from a strategy that the women’s team tried to work in to their race.
“In the women’s race we made a move towards the middle of the race and it didn’t work out the way we hoped it would,” Morris said. “I just told the men to go out and race. The pack stayed together for a really long time and I wasn’t sure if it would help but it worked out really well for us. Our guys ran the last mile and a half really hard and we did really well.”
The individual performances by Thor and Esposito weren’t unexpected but there are never guarantees in sports.
“I know that both Leah and David had a good chance of winning but to see it happen is awesome,” Morris said. “To have the winners of both the men’s and women’s race is great for our program.”
The Saints received the automatic bid to nationals, and the Saints women’s high national ranking should guarantee them a spot in the field. The meet takes place on Nov. 22 in Lawrence, Kan. The Saints have a lot to do in the next few weeks.
“There is a lot of work to do with the course. We have been preparing all year long for it because it is different from what we see,” Morris said. “We have to build on where we are and do the thing we didn’t do well a little bit better.”
Coach David Morris
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