As temperatures cool and summer officially winds down, the winds of the southern Minnesota prairies blow in a new class of academically inclined and athletically capable first-years to the grounds of Carleton College. In many ways, these newly-minted Knights are a carbon copy of the generations of new student-athletes who came before them. Surely, many of them elected to advance their athletic careers at Carleton on an academics-first basis. This particular batch of Carls appear to have an excess of fire in their stomachs, as many have made immediate impacts with their respective squads, with a select group achieving unparalleled success, from both a Carleton and conference standpoint.
Carleton’s Women’s Cross Country team has already had a season for the ages. The Knights currently hold the seventh spot in the national NCAA Division III rankings, and are being paced by first-year Clara Mayfield. Hailing from Manhattan, Kansas, Mayfield has won both of the two events that the Knights have participated in, posting times of 22:20:9 and 22:38.6 at Carleton’s Running of the Cows, and Concordia Wisconsin’s Ken Weidt Invitational, respectively. Her individual wins have helped propelled the Knights to team success, as Carleton quite literally ran away from the competition, winning both of the aforementioned events’ team contests comfortably.
When selecting between schools, Clara was looking to find a program with dual commitments to academics and athletics. “I knew Carleton offers the best educational opportunities, and when I visited the campus and met the team I fell in love with the atmosphere,” she said. “I liked how the athletes valued academics above all, but were also very committed to the team when they were at practice.”
Mayfield has already been recognized by the MIAC as a stand-out performer. After her victory at the Ken Weidt Invitational, she was awarded the title of MIAC Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week.
“Athletically, I have always been a good runner,” Mayfield said of her approach. “Throughout high school I attribute my improvement and success to my coaches who are very knowledgeable about running, as well as my work ethic. In running, it is important to train, but also important to be healthy overall, and being committed to the lifestyle of running helped me get to a high level. Starting college, I wasn’t exactly sure where I would fall among competition at first, but I knew based on my previous times I would probably be near the top. I would say nothing has changed much, and the constant training I’ve put in has allowed me to succeed early at Carleton, just by continuing routines I have already done.”
While Mayfield will hope to perpetuate the string of success that Carleton Women’s Cross Country has enjoyed over the last decade (seven out of the last ten MIAC championships have been won by Carleton), two young Knights are providing a glimpse into a successful future for a program that has never been crowned champions of the MIAC. First-years Anderson Murphy and James Berger have been stellar in the Men’s Golf team’s first three tournaments, setting a precedent for future success, on a team that is comprised of majority first-years.
At St. Thomas’s Pioneer Collegiate tournament, Berger finished with the Knights’ best score for a 54-hole event in sixteen years, leading the Knights to their lowest 54-hole team score in program history. Berger, from Los Altos Hills, also chose Carleton on an academics first basis: “I chose Carleton because of how good it is academically. I definitely wanted to play golf in college but academics were always first. The balance of very difficult classes and Division III golf was perfect for me so Carleton was the go to,” Berger said.
When asked of the key ingredients behind his fantastic round at St. Thomas, Berger spokeon consistency: “There wasn’t necessarily anything that was working particularly well. I was and planned for it. And when you are playing that many holes, that is very important.”
Teammate and fellow first-year Anderson Murphy has set some records of his own. On the second day of the Carleton-St. Olaf-Macalester triangular, Murphy shot a 68, four strokes under par, and the lowest of any Knight’s 18-hole score in 15 seasons. With his phenomenal second round, Murphy was able to close the gap on his teammate Berger, who led by three strokes after round one, to finish in a tie for first with his teammate. Thanks in part to Berger and Murphy’s efforts, the Knights were able to edge second place St. Olaf by nine strokes to win the triangular.
Moving to the pitch, both Carleton soccer squads have had exceptional beginnings to their respective seasons, with first-years contributing significantly to each teams’ success. Cate Patterson, a CWS first-year from Racine, Wisconsin, has been superb for the Knights, leading the team in goals with four. While the statistics prove her offensive capability in black and white, Patterson is particularly exciting to watch in person. She excels in one-on-one situations, and as made apparent by her two goal game against UW-Stout, is capable of conjuring space with her defender, seemingly out of thin air, to create her own shot opportunities.
Perhaps the most remarkable story out of all fall athletes new to the Carleton Varsity athletic program is not one of a first-year, but of that of a walk-on sophomore. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Tonny Aton is competing in his first year for Varsity Men’s Soccer, in his second year on campus.
Aton’s impact was felt immediately. In their first contest of the preseason, the Knights found themselves deadlocked at 0-0 after the first half, though they outshot the home team Minnesota-Morris Cougars by a tally of 18-1. Despite a frustrated offense, Tonny came to the rescue at the commencement of the second half, scoring a trio of goals in the half’s first thirteen minutes to give the Knights a comfortable 3-0 lead. Aton’s flurry highlighted a 5-0 Knight win, and has set the tone for the Knight’s offense, who lead all NCAA programs across all three divisions with a skyhigh 27.57 average shots per game.
With the exception of Mayfield and Women’s Cross Country, each of these exciting first-year players, along with Aton, will be in action this weekend. Carleton Men’s and Women’s Soccer will play Concordia at home on Saturday afternoon, while Murphy and Berger will compete from Saturday to Monday in the Twin Cities Classic, at Elk River Country Club.