Nov. 20, 2010
By Nick Finch
Special to NCAA.com
WAVERLY, Iowa – Anders Hulleberg of Haverford College (Pa.) finished the 2009 nationals in 89th place. A long way from first.
But on a cold Saturday morning in Iowa, Hulleberg found himself in the front pack of runners at the NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country National Championship at Wartburg College.
In a group with Michael Spain of North Central (Ill.), Ben Sathre of St. Thomas (Minn.) and Steve Kiplagat of St. Lawrence (N.Y.), Hulleberg simply took off.
“I just wanted to stay competitive and with 500 (yards) to go, I was still there and decided to go for it,” said Hulleberg, a senior from Baltimore.
Hulleberg spotted a tree in the final stretch and used it as a fixed point for his final burst. He moved just in front of the other elite runners, grabbing first place with a time of 24:22.2.
“I can’t believe it,” Hulleberg said as he accepted hugs and congratulations from teammates and friends. “I honestly can’t believe it. I got out towards the top of the race and it didn’t feel that hard. I relaxed early on and I knew I was going to have a good race.”
Even with that early calm, Hulleberg admitted to some worry in the final strides.
“I kept waiting for someone to come up on me in the last 20 meters. One quick look and I didn’t see anyone in my periphery and I knew I did it.”
The Haverford student-athletes, coaches and fans crowded near the finish line to bask in the glow of both Hulleberg’s win and the overall team victory.
“As soon as I crossed the finished line, I knew (Hulleberg had won),” said Haverford senior Joseph Carpenter. “He’s my best friend and we’ve been doing this together for four years.”
Sathre may be seen as a surprise finisher, taking second place one second behind Hulleberg at 24:23.8. The junior from St. Thomas already had the experience on the course, having won the Central Regional the week before at Wartbrug as well.
“The course is beautiful and I loved it,” said Sathre. “I don’t think anybody thought I was going to be in the top 10 so it’s wonderful. I’m going to come on back next year and give it another shot.”
Many eyes were on North Central senior Michael Spain, who led the top-ranked Cardinals throughout the year and came to the national meet as the 2009 runner-up.
Spain trained for 2010 to be the culmination of all of his hard work. Yet he could not overcome Hulleberg and Sathre as he earned third place at 24:24.6. Kiplagat finished a shade behind, taking fourth at 24:25.2. Senior Mike Heymann of SUNY-Plattsburgh captured fifth with a time of 24:28.9.
“It was a lot of guys fighting out there today,” said Spain. “No one let anyone go and it came down to the guy who ran the smartest on the day.”
Spain also noted the intensity of the front pack.
“In the nationals I’ve seen, I think there were definitely more guys willing to give more during the whole race,” said Spain. “It was a whole effort by everyone out there. All throughout the race, a different guy would take charge and make moves the entire time. It was a fight the whole time.”
North Central head coach Al Carius said Spain’s legacy over four years in the program is something he knows the Cardinals will miss.
“Such a mentally tough young man and his ability to stay consistent, train hard has been a great blueprint for him and a great blueprint for these young guys on our team to follow,” said Carius. “We have been very fortunate to have his leadership in our program. He will be sorely missed.”
Even minutes after his first-place finish, Hulleberg admitted Spain’s shadow pushed him at the end.
“I kicked as hard as I could because I knew he is an amazing runner,” said Spain.
With Hulleberg’s key role in helping Haverford win the program’s first national team title, it’s safe to say he exceeded expectations in 2010.
“Beyond what we hoped for,” said Haverford coach Tom Donnelly, in his 36th year with the program. “I hoped that, if he had a really, really good race, he would crack the top 10.”