Running at the NJCAA Div. I National Championships always seems to bring out the best in the tradition-rich Iowa Central women's cross country program.
Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course was no exception.
Paced by individual gold medalist Hannah Maina, the top-ranked Tritons earned their third straight national title and fifth since 2007, compiling just 41 points. No. 2 Central Arizona (96) and 10th-rated Gillette (173) were a distant second and third.
"That's three in a row now, which I never thought would've been possible," ICCC head coach Dee Brown said. "Getting (individual places) one, three and nine was amazing. (Yesterday) was also the first time we've ever had a female national champion. I was very proud of how we ran."
Maina, a sophomore, clocked a winning mark of 18:12.6. Spartanburg Methodist's Betsy Douglas (18:21.6) received silver.
"I'm happy for my team and for my coach," said Maina, who was a Region XI champion here back on Oct. 26. "I had a lot of fun out there."
Other counters for the host Tritons were Aden Alemu (3rd, 18:22.5), Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Tara Jackson (9th, 18:45.6), Kim Carter (16th, 19:00.2) and Lauren Roberts (19th, 19:12.3).
"I was trying to get second, and even though I wasn't feeling tired, (Douglas) was just able to beat me at the end," Alemu said. "As a team, we worked so hard for this (national crown). I'm so happy for the year we had."
Jackson, a former two-time Class 4A individual state participant for the Dodgers in 2008 and 2009, offered similar thoughts.
"It was so cool running on (Lakeside Golf Course)," said Jackson, who finished fourth at regionals in 18:58. "Coming in, I just wanted to get in the Top-15 and lead my team the best I could. I'm so much stronger now, probably as much mentally as spiritually, than I was in high school."
Maina and Alemu were each named to the All-American first team, while Jackson was tabbed to the second squad.
"Alemu, who was out all of last year with an ACL injury, had an awesome season," Brown said. "Tara has really improved by leaps and bounds this year, too. The whole Jackson family are great, hard-working people that helped me out a lot in getting ready for (the national meet)."
Brown, who has directed Iowa Central to 10 regional titles in a row, was also voted National Cross Country Coach of the Year on the women's side for a third consecutive season and the fifth time in his career.
Illinois Central's Bridget Carius (4th, 18:22.6) and TaPring Goatee (5th, 18:31.3) of Vincennes rounded out the All-American first team. A total of 281 women competed here on Saturday.