EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire cross country program announced the 2017 team awards Sunday evening at their year-end banquet. The awards, which are decided by team voting, include: Most Valuable Newcomer, Most Improved, Most Valuable, and the Blugold Award.
Lizzy Cisewski (Fr.-Stevens Point,WI/Pacelli) won the Most Valuable Newcomer Award for the women's team. She finished the season incredibly strong earning All-Conference honors by placing 10th at the WIAC Championships, All Region honors by placing 24th at the Midwest Regional Championships, and finishing 144th out of 279 runners at the NCAA DIII National Championships helping the Blugolds to a second place team national finish as their fifth and final scorer. Lizzy's personal best 6K time of 21:40, which she ran at the Midwest Regional Championships, ranks first on the Blugold Freshmen top times list by over 20 seconds and is 12th on the Blugold All-Time 6K list.
Dylan Lueck (So. – Germantown, WI/Wisconsin Lutheran) earned the Most Valuable Newcomer Award for the men's team. His break out race came at the Luther Saga Cup where he won by over 15 seconds, cracked the 26 minute 8K barrier for the first time and led the Blugolds to the team title. He continued this momentum the following week at the Midwest Regional Championships finishing 68th out of 254 competitors and helping the men advance to the NCAA National Championships. Dylan's 8K personal best time of 25:10, which he ran at Regionals, ranks him 34th on the Blugold All-Time 8K list.
Teagan Monfils (Fr. – Shawano, WI) earned the Most Improved Award for the women's team. She failed to make the 2016 cross country roster and used that setback as motivation for a break out 2017 season. Going into this season her main goal was to make the team, and Teagan did that and much more by placing 22nd at the WIAC Championships with a 6K personal best time of 23:13, which ranks her 14th on the Blugold Freshmen top times list. In addition, Teagan was the alternate for the Regional and National Championship squad and her positive and supportive attitude was invaluable for the team's success during these final two races of the season.
Anthony Dupont (Jr.- Mendota Heights, MN/Henry Sibley) earned the Most Improved Award on the men's side. Consistent is the best word to describe Dupont's season. He placed in the top six of the Blugolds scoring pack in every race this season and ran his best at the end of the season when it counted most placing 23rd at the WIAC Championships, 51st at the Regional Championships and 168th of 279 competitors at the National Championships. Dupont's 8K personal best time of 24:52, which he ran at Regionals, ranks him 20th on the Blugold All-Time 8K list.
Sam Slattery (So.-Waunakee, WI) earned the Most Valuable Runner Award for the women. She continued her impressive Blugold Career earning All-American (top 40) honors for the first time by placing 17th at Nationals and leading the team to the runner-up finish. Sam bettered the old school record of 21:15, which was set by Blugold Alum and All-American Ashlyn Mauer in 2012, at Regionals and Nationals with her best mark of 20:54 run at the Regional Championships. Sam was the top Blugold finisher in every race she competed in this season.
In addition to the NCAA Division III Runner of the Year Award and the WIAC Runner of the Year honors, Darin Lau (Sr.- Eau Claire, WI/ Immanuel Lutheran) earned the Blugolds Most Valuable Runner Award. Darin is the best men's cross country runner in school history, and the following statistics prove it:
- UW-Eau Claire's only four-time cross country All-American and only the 15th four-time men's cross country All-American in NCAA Division III history
- School record 8K best time of 23:22 run at the Midwest Regional Championships (formerly held by Blugold Alum and four-time track national champion, Josh Thorson who ran 23:57 in 2014)
- 2017 NCAA Division III Individual National Champion, Midwest Regional Champion & WIAC Champion
Darin led the team to a 7th place finish at this year's national meet, which is the team's sixth top ten finish in the past six years. In addition, he was a scoring member of the 2015 team that won the national title and last year's third place trophy team.
The Blugold Award is given to an individual who is considered an exceptional teammate and this year's winners are Mel Becker (Sr.-Osseo, WI/Homeschooled) and Riley Huffman (Sr.-Oshkosh, WI North). Mel had a breakout senior season finishing an All-American 26th place at Nationals and running a 6K personal best time of 21:12 that ranks her third on the Blugold All-Time list. Her running accolades from this season are impressive, but her leadership was an equal or more important component of this year's incredible team success. At the beginning of the season she was instrumental in getting the women to believe that a top four trophy team place was realistic even though the team failed to make last year's national meet. As the season progressed Mel led the pre-race meetings that were instrumental in developing the calm and confident demeanor the women displayed during the championship portion of the season.
Riley Huffman finished his Blugold career in bittersweet fashion running the best cross country race of his career by placing 44th at nationals but finishing four spots and three seconds away from the coveted 40th and final All-American spot. His personal best 8K time of 24:15, run at Regionals, ranks him fourth on the Blugold All-Time list. Like Mel, his running accolades are impressive but his team leadership was more impressive with two freshmen specifically saying Riley was the reason they were able to stay positive and believe in themselves during the sometimes challenging transition to collegiate running.
The cross country team enjoyed a few weeks of down time after the finish of the season and now are easing back into training in preparation for the start of the indoor track & field season, which kicks off with the Alumni Meet on Saturday, January 13th.