TERRE HAUTE, Ind (UW-Stout Release) - UW-Stout's Tim Nelson looked back three times during the final 400-meters of the 8K course at the NCAA Division III Men's Cross Country Championship and saw no one close.
There was no one in the rear view mirror as Nelson crossed the finish line alone to win the national individual title by eight seconds Saturday at the LaVerne Gibson Course.
The senior from Augusta, Wis., a high school that didn't even have a cross country team, put the final touches on a stellar career by crossing the finish line all alone in a time of 24-minutes, 26.8 seconds. Bobby Over of Allegheny College was second at 24:34.8. Grant Winheiser of St. Olaf was third (24:35.7).
The win puts Nelson in rarified air. Only three previous runners from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) or it's predecessor, the Wisconsin State University Conference (WSUC), have won men's individual cross country championships - Arne Schroeder from UW-Stevens Point in 1986, Brett Altergott from UW-La Crosse in 1997 and Tyler Sigl from UW-Platteville in 2007.
Except for a few scant seconds during the beginning of the race as runners jockeyed for position, Nelson led the entire race and gradually pulled away from the pack. Over did gain some ground very late, but Nelson's lead was unsurmountable. Showing signs of fatigue just before the finish line, Nelson did go to the ground after crossing the line, similar to when he won the 2012 outdoor national10k title last spring. The cross country win gives Nelson four total national championships, three in track (5K indoor, 2012; 5K outdoor, 2012; 10K outdoor, 2012). Nelson finished fourth.
"My strategy was to stay relaxed for the first 2K and not slow down on the winding turns," said Nelson. "I told myself before the race that if I didn't win, I'd be okay with it as long as I gave everything I had. To be able to do that and win the race, it's very satisfying."
"I had absolutely nothing left (at the end of the race)," Nelson said. "I knew that if I didn't fall down, I would be okay."
Patrick Jenkins (So, Cambridge) ran steady throughout the race, finishing 43rd of 275 runners in a time of 25:13.5. Two years ago as a sophomore, Nelson made his first cross country national appearance, finishing 42nd.
Jenkins strategy was very similar to Nelson's - to stay relaxed early, then make his move.
"I was pretty far back at the mile mark," Jenkins said, "then made my move in the middle of the race. I didn't have much left and ran as hard as I could. When I finished, that was as far up as I had been. I am looking forward to track and coming back to (cross country) nationals."
North Central College won the team title, with Calvin College second. Haverford was third and UW-La Crosse fourth. UW-Eau Claire placed eighth.
The event marks the first time Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has hosted the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championship and the 10th time that the LaVern Gibson Course has hosted a national event. The Course has also served of the NCAA Division I championships from 2004-11.
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