Occidental Headed to NCAA Division III Nationals in Men's Cross Country
The Occidental College and Colorado College men’s cross country teams will both be headed to the NCAA Division III National tournament after the schools finished tied for first with 76 points each at the West Regional at Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps finished in third with 83 points and Willamette University in fourth with 95.
Jackson Brainerd won the individual competition for Colorado College, finishing the 8k (4.96 miles) race in 24 minutes and 53.4 seconds, beating Claremont-Mud-Scripps’ Rafer Dannenhauer who finished second (24:59.7) and Occidental’s Eric Kleinsasser (Glendale, CA) who was third (25:02.1).
Brainerd used a kick a few hundred yards after the fourth mile that passed up Kleinsasser, Dannenhauer and a few others toward the front of the pack, to win his third regional championship and earn a spot in the NCAA Division III nationals field in Oshkosh, Wis. on Nov. 19.
“I was real nervous coming in because these guys weren’t going to make it easy,” Brainerd said. “I was mostly waiting. I thought someone was going to make a move but they didn’t. So I went for it.”
Brainerd’s race against Kleinsasser was highly anticipated, after he edged the Oxy runner two years ago by under a second at the West Regional on the same course. Saturday, it was less suspenseful as Brainerd had a big lead by the time he hit the final stretch of the race.
“Jackson had it today,” said Kleinsasser, who was coming off of consecutive wins at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference multi-dual and championship events. “As we were going up the hill he bailed. My strategy with respect to him was to put a move on early.”
Willamette and Claremont-M-S are both frontrunners to receive at-large bids when they are decided for teams and players in a couple of days.