Seventh week is a time of transition here at Carleton. Midterm season is officially over, signaling the beginning of a three week sprint towards the tenth-week finish line. The cold has set in, prompting all to reach into their closets, pull out their snow-jackets, and brace themselves as they trudge across a frigid campus. Professors begin to comb through course material and prepare their final examinations to the shagrin of intimidated students.
There is a certain feeling of intensity to seventh week. As the culmination of ten weeks of pain-staking effort nears, pressure to succeed begins to set in. Failing to achieve a desired grade is equivalent to ten-weeks of struggle wasted.
Carleton fall athletes are no stranger to this intensity. As the term progresses, so does the athletic season. For most squads, tomorrow will be the last day of MIAC competition, leaving each team with at least somewhat of a comprehension of whether or not they will have the opportunity to compete for a MIAC championship. Carleton has had a mixed showing across all fall athletic events for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Some teams have been excellent, showing championship caliber potential and hanging tough with the nation’s best. Both Cross Country teams have been excellent thus far, recording another successful year as perennially MIAC powerhouses. Junior Matt Wilkinson has paced the men’s team, placing first at Carleton’s Running of the Cows, second at the UW-Eau Claire invite, and fourth at the highly competitive Connecticut College Invite. The men are currently ranked 30th in the country by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), and fourth in the central region. Tomorrow, the Knights will race to defend 2018’s MIAC championship, in what appears to be a three horse race between the Knights, St. Olaf, and St. Thomas.
“We’ve been dropping our mileage so that our legs have a chance to recover before this weekend’s meet,” Wilkinson said of the team’s preparation. “At the same time, we are continuing with intense workouts to ensure that we are sharp and ready to go when we line up on Saturday. In terms of mental preparation, we’ve been talking a lot about team strategy with Coach Ricks and Coach Schoen. Personally, I’ve also spent a lot of time running on the Conference meet course this past week to visualize the race. Aside from this, we do goof off quite a bit in practice, which is important because it means we aren’t stressing too much before race day.”
Women’s Cross Country is putting together one heck of a season of their own. Ranked first in the central region and ninth nationally, the Knights have established themselves as the dominant force in MIAC Women’s XC for the coming future. First-year Clara Mayfield has two wins under her belt, and will be in contention for a third at tomorrow’s MIAC championships. Junior Amanda Mosborg currently holds the title of MIAC Women’s XC Athlete of the Week, giving the Knights their third MIAC weekly award of the season, in addition to Mayfield’s previous two. The future is bright for Carleton Women’s XC, as the program will return both Mayfield and Mosborg, along with Sophie Maag ’23 and junior Emma Greenlee ’21, each of whom have top-five finishes this season.
Two sports, whose seasons will formally resume in the spring, had strong showings this fall. Women’s Golf finished third at the MIAC Championships in late September, with Alyssa Akiyama ’20 capturing her second individual MIAC title. Alyssa’s victory marks the seventh consecutive year that a member of the Carleton Women’s Golf team was crowned champion. Akiyama is the third woman from Carleton to win multiple individual championships (2016, 2019), following in the footsteps of Ziyi Wang (2017, ’18) and Grace Gilmore (2014, ’15). On the tennis court, the doubles pair of Madeline Prins and Faith Yim, along with the 2018 NCAA Men’s Singles runner-up Leo Vithoontien, reached the ITA cup. 2019 marked the first year that any Knight had reached the ITA tournament, which is viewed as a tune-up for more formal NCAA competition in the Spring. Both Golf and Tennis will resume this coming March, weather permitting.
Men’s Soccer, after a thrilling run to the NCAA Tournament last season, are headed to the MIAC playoffs again. This will be the thirteenth consecutive trip for the Knights, the longest of any MIAC school. Most recently, Carleton defeated archrival St. Olaf at home, on an OT game-winner by midfielder Charlie Hall.
The win over St. Olaf this week was an important result on many levels. Since they are our rivals, the fact that we were able to battle back from a 1-0 deficit in such an intense game really shows the strength of our team. It is rewarding to clinch a spot in the playoffs and then to host a home playoff game next week. Most importantly, we have now had two great performances in a row and seem to be coming together at the right time. If we continue this streak against St. Johns, we will have significant momentum heading into playoffs.
The Knights will wrap up MIAC play this Saturday, as they’ll face St. Johns University on the road. With their victory over St. Olaf, they are guaranteed to host at least one MIAC playoff game, which is tentatively scheduled for this Monday.
Some teams have struggled, but show signs of improvement from last season, with reason for optimism about the future. With two games left to play, Carleton Football already has as many wins as the past three seasons combined. Though still years away from playoff contention, the Knights have played significantly cleaner football, cutting turnovers in half from last year’s 3-7 finish.
Knights Volleyball sits a distant 10th place in the MIAC standings. Though Carleton has failed to qualify for the MIAC playoffs since 2015, there is reason for excitement looking forward. The Knights have youth on their side, as they will only graduate two seniors in Celeste Chen and Olivia Powell. Junior Abby Loe has developed into a force for Carleton, having already recorded over fifty more blocks than her sophomore campaign, with one game left to play. Sophomore Inger Shelton has also performed well, settling into the role of the team’s primary setter, and exceeding her assist total from last season by over one-hundred.
One team sits in the middle between the competitive extremes of championship-contender and rebuild mode. Carleton Women’s Soccer has not made the MIAC playoffs since 2014, but punched their ticket to this year’s tournament with a dominating seven to two victory against St. Olaf on Wednesday. Their playoff fate, however, remains undetermined, as they will only be guaranteed a home playoff game with a win against College of Saint Benedict. It will be interesting to see how the Knights will fare next season and beyond, as they will be graduating seven key pieces, including Nora Mertz, who moved into a tie for third in all-time goals scored at Carleton.
Playoffs or not, it seems that each fall sport has either results to be proud of or a future to look forward to.