CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Four Carroll College runners captured All-America honors to lead the Saints to a fifth-place finish for the women, an eighth-place finish for the men and a combined third-place finish at the NAIA Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday.
Lyle Pocha took ninth place overall with a time of 24:49.2, and Chance Hyatt took 21st place with a time of 25:09.2 to lead the Saints to their eighth-place finish.
On the women’s side, Leah Esposito took 14th with a time of 17:55.3 to earn All-American honors for the third consecutive year. Sandy Torres recorded a personal record time of 17:58.1 to take 17th overall. The duo led the Saints to a fifth-place finish, one spot behind last-year’s fourth-place.
The two Top 10 finishes gave Carroll the third overall combined finish behind Oklahoma City and the University of British Columbia. The award means that the Saints, in just their sixth year in competition, are the third-best overall program in the nation.
“It feels pretty good to get a good finish in the combined; it was one of our goals coming into the meet,” coach David Morris said. “We were hoping to win the combined, but it is great to bring home some team hardware.”
Several Carroll athletes had good days, but overall the team was inconsistent.
“The course was pretty flat and fast, and that favored the quick runners rather than our longer distance runners and that affected some of our people today,” Morris said. “Sandy ran great. Lyle ran pretty well -- he didn’t improve on his finish from last year (he finished seventh) but he was right in there. Leah was disappointed with her finish, but overall she had a pretty good race.”
Along with the pair of All-Americans, David Thor finished just outside of All-American standing at 34th with a time of 25:31.5, Chace Constantine was 115th at 26:23.2 and Patrick Miranne was 145th at 26:34.5.
“On the men’s side, the top three ran pretty well,” Morris said. “Lyle and Chance, of course, did a great job and David came through with a strong race and almost made All-American after struggling with injuries for most of the year. Our fourth and fifth were just too far back today.”
On the women’s side, Janie Reid was Carroll’s third finisher with a time of 18:49.3, good enough for 67th place. Heidi Hennings was the fourth finisher at 18:53.9 for 79th place. Regan Bold rounded out the scoring for Carroll in 94th place with a time of 19:00.3.
“We had a shot for second or third and it is disappointing to leave without a trophy,” Morris said. “The bar keeps getting higher for this team. We lost Rhianna Grossman, one of the best runners in school history, to graduation, then Janie steps up and ran very well for us and Heidi came in as a freshman and worked her way into the top four. We have the opportunity to continue to build on what we are doing.”
The Saints will go forward without a bevy of graduating seniors. Constantine and Pocha on the men’s side and Bold and Torres on the women’s team are all either graduating or out of eligibility for cross country.
Carroll will now turn the focus to track and field. The Saints begin the indoor season on Jan. 15 at Montana State.