Duhawks win 2011 Iowa Conference Championship!
Sat, Oct. 29, 2011 - [Men's Cross Country]

Loras 1st of 9


The conditions in Decorah, Iowa on Saturday were nearly perfect for a cross country race.


The mood around the Loras College men's cross country team following the 2011 Iowa Conference Championships hosted by Luther College was pretty much exactly the same, near perfect.


Smiles were difficult to wipe off the faces of the 2011 Duhawk team as they celebrated their first Iowa Conference Championship since 1997 and fourth in program history.


Leading the way for the Duhawks on Saturday was senior Dan McDermott, who posted a second place overall finish, just eight seconds off the winning time. McDermott finished the course in 25:22.


"I was hurting a bit after the first mile, being done in 4:57, but that's the race I'd rather run. I knew I was going to finish pretty decent finish after that first mile," McDermott said.


"After that, I just tried to hold onto (eventual winner) Kyle Heineman and score the best I could for the team."


The team wasn't far behind McDermott on Saturday.


Sophomore Jerry Olp was fifth in 25:43 and Austin Steil was 13thin 25:57 – and the trio reached the All-Iowa Conference podium as a result of their top 15 finishes.


Equally important to the win were Ty Wittman and Rob Howe, both freshmen for the Duhawks, who finished 16-17 to round out the top five for Loras. Wittman came home in 26:10 and Howe was 1.5 seconds faster that Luther's #5 Scott Mittman, finishing the course in 26:13.


The sixth and seventh Duhawks were also in the top 25. Junior Chris Higgins was 21stand freshman Steve Loran was 23rd.


"We executed the race plan to a T, went out with the back of the front pack, did well," head coach Bob Schultz said.


"If any one of our guys doesn't perform how they do, we probably don't win today."


The first place team result was, according to McDermott, "a huge relief".


"My freshman year we lost by 11, and then last year by 4," McDermott recalled. "Finally we got it. We knew Luther was going to be there, but once we heard the scream from across the course, I was so happy to accomplish our first goal."


Now the Duhawks turn their attention to the NCAA Division III Central Region Championships on November 12 in Waverly, Iowa.


"As a team we really want to win regionals," McDermott admitted.  


"It's going to be a tough race and we're going to have to run better, pack it up better. We're going to have to come together once again. We've got great momentum now. We're excited."


Schultz admitted the team set a goal to reach nationals this year – which would be just the second time in program history the team qualified.


"We're going to try and earn one of the automatic bids," Schultz said. 


"It's exciting!"


In addition to the team's success on the course on Saturday, head coach Bob Schultz was also voted the 2011 Iowa Conference Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year following the race.


"It is a great honor because we compete in such a great conference," Schultz said Saturday.  


"It's nice to be recognized, no doubt. The other thing is that I really enjoy sharing it with the kids. It is flattering and I'm humbled by it. The coach gets the award, but it is reflective of the team's performance."


McDermott's smile returned when asked about Schultz's award.


"There's no guy out there that deserves that more than Coach Schultz. He works so hard for us," the senior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa said.


"I was so happy for him. I've spent a lot of time with him. He's been one of the biggest influences over my life in the last four years," declared McDermott.


"He's the best coach in the nation."


Schultz is the second coach is program history to win the award.