Parker wins NCAA Division III National Championship

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Former Clayton Ridge athlete Kassie Parker (above) won the NCAA Division III Women's Cross Country National Championship at EP Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 20. (Photo submitted)

Submitted by Emily Adlfinger, Director of Athletic Communiations 

Loras College 

Known throughout the season as the favorite to take home the individual crown, Loras College women's cross country junior Kassie Parker stood up to the hype on Saturday, Nov. 20, winning the NCAA Division III Women's Cross Country National Championship at EP Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky., in record-setting fashion and becoming the program's first individual champion for the Duhawks.

"I felt good going into the meet, but it's nationals and anything can happen. The first half mile is always tough and I was especially nervous today because I knew I wanted to get out fast and that's always the hardest part. A few runners were confident at the start to stay with me and tried to make their moves but I kept it fast which was my plan from the start," said Parker.

Parker went through the first 1,000-meters in 3:26.4 and the 3,000-meter mark in 9:59.2, opening up a significant lead through the 5,000-meter point. As she has most of the season, the Guttenberg native ran with no company up front and was the lone runner as she crossed the finish in 20:11.1, the fastest time by a Division III runner at the course and just off her school-record mark of 20:10.9.  

Parker is now a three-time All-American, two of which she earned on the course as she was the fifth-place finisher in 2019. She has gone from finishing 31st at the national meet to hoisting the national champion trophy. She is the first national champion for the Duhawks in cross country since John Mulholland who won back-to-back titles in 1961 and 1962.

"We expected this kind of race from Kassie as she has shown this all season, but it was exciting to see it come together today and all of her hard work pay off," said head coach Bob Schultz. "I am tremendously proud of the progress she has made from high school to college. She stuck with the plan, ran a confident race, and took care of business."

"My body was fatigued at the end from going out really hard at the start, but knowing my teammates were there cheering me on and seeing them at the finish line was amazing—it meant so much that they made the trip down here for the race," said Parker. "I think I was in shock when I crossed the line because I was definitely hurting physically but it felt really good to finish as the national champion."

This is Parker's second national title as she was the 10,000-meter champion at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field National Championship in 2019. She holds the school record in every distance in cross country and every event from a mile and longer in indoor and outdoor track and field. This cross country season, she went undefeated against Division III competition and won her first American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) title in addition to her second-career NCAA Division III Midwest Regional Championship.

Parker won the race by 17.5 seconds ahead of Ari Marks from Wellesley University while Danielle Page from Tufts University finished third in 20:30.1. Johns Hopkins University won the team title with 130 points followed by Claremont-Mudd Scripps College in second (132) and SUNY-Geneseo in third. Wartburg College finished fourth as the lone representative from the conference.

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