WALLA WALLA, Wash. Ė With Mara Abbott dominating the womenís competition, the Whitman College cycling team defended its National College Cycling Association (NCCA) Division II championship last weekend in Lawrence, Kan.
|Wearing the "stars & bars" jerseys that go to national champions, the Whitman cycling team celebrates last Sunday after retaining its NCCA Div. II national title.|
Abbott, a sophomore from Boulder, Colo., contributed to Whitmanís victory in the team time trial event and then won both of the womenís individual races -- the 56-mile road race and 55-minute criterium.
The Collegiate Road National Championships, sponsored by USA Cycling, got underway last Friday with the team time trial events, continued Saturday with the road races and concluded Sunday with the fast-paced criterium. The Whitman womenís and menís teams piled up a total of 492 points to edge North Carolinaís Lees-McRae College, the runner-up for a second consecutive year, by a slim 11 points. Indianaís DePauw University finished with 438 points, placing third in a field of 37 teams.
Western Washington University was fourth, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in fifth and 2004 champion Dartmouth in sixth. Rounding out the top ten, in order, were Princeton, Colorado College, University of Denver and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Whitman got off to a strong start in Fridayís team time trial events. Competing in windy conditions on a 12-mile course, Abbott teamed with senior Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, Wash.), junior Rebecca Jensen (Mukilteo, Wash.) and first-year rider Kate Ceronsky (Arden Hills, Minn.) to win the race in 40:25.5 -- the best women's time of the day in either of the two divisions. The Lees-McRae women finished second by more than a minute.
The Whitman women have now won team time trial for three consecutive years. Abbott, Valaas and Jensen were part of the winning squad last year, while Valaas was also on the victorious team in 2004.
In the menís race, seniors Sam Johnson (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Brandon Weil (Boulder, Colo.) joined forces with sophomores Sam Bell (Gloucester, Mass.) and Chris Thomas (Portland, Ore.) to place second in 35:09.1. Lees-McRae won the menís event in 34:15.0, while Western Washington, one of Whitman's Northwests rivals, took third.
On Saturday, Abbott won the 56-mile womenís road race in 2:50:56, beating Yaleís Anna Milkowski and DePauwís Carol Hutton by 15 seconds. Abbott broke free from her closest rivals with about eight miles left in the race and maintained her lead the rest of the way. Valaas was 86 seconds back in fourth place, while senior Jane Rynbrandt (Petosky, Mich.) and Jensen placed 13th and 14th, respectively. Abbott also won the road race at last yearís national championships.
Bell was Whitmanís top rider in the menís 86.6-mile road race. He placed 18th, finishing in a pack that was about 36 seconds behind the winner, Brent Bookwalter of Lees-McRae. Bookwalter's winning time was 3:41:20. Johnson and Greg Dering, a junior from Berkeley, Calif., recovered from crashes to place 47th and 53rd, respectively. Weil dropped out of the race due to mechanical problems.
In the closing criterium events, which took place on a technical one-kilometer course on the streets of downtown Lawrence, Abbott and Valaas again finished first and fourth. The race, which ran for 55 minutes plus a final three laps, ended with Abbott on top with 113 points. DePauwís Jenna Boyd was second while MITís Caitlin Bever took third with 80, edging Valaas into fourth place on a tie-breaker formula. Jensen placed 16th.
Jensen set the early pace for Whitman, allowing Valaas and Abbott to draft and rest. While avoiding a crash, Rynbrandt aggravated an existing shoulder injury and dropped from the race. Jensen finished 16th, after slowing to avoid a crash on the final corner.
Weil rode to a strong fourth-place finish in the menís criterium, accumulating 79 points. Scott Jackson of Lees-McRae was the winner with 120 points. Johnson picked up 52 points to place 10th for Whitman. Bell finished 20th overall and Jamie Wendell, a junior from Berkeley, Calif., was 53rd.
In combined scoring for the two individual events, Abbott and Valaas finished first and second on the womenís side. Abbott collected 279 points while Valaas ended with 220. Jensen was ninth with 121 points and Rynbrandt 21st with 88.
In the menís individual scoring, Bell and Weil placed 17th and 20th, respectively, with 92 and 79 points. Johnson was 29th with 52 points.
The NCCA divides its national championships into two divisions by size of school enrollment. As a member of Division II, Whitman competed against all schools with enrollments of less than 15,000. Whitman has about 1,400 students.
The University of California-Davis took home Sunday's NCCA Div. I championship.