Bearcat Runners Carlson and Montague Compete at NCAA Championships

Keith Carlson (Sr., Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS)
Keith Carlson (Sr., Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

WINNECONNE, Wis. -- Keith Carlson (Sr., Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) and Michael Montague (Jr., San Diego, CA/Canyon Crest Academy) of Willamette University competed in the men's 8-kilometer race at the 2018 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships at Lake Breeze Golf Club on Saturday, Nov. 17. Carlson earned a time of 25:04.6 to take 47th place. Montague finished the course in 25:44.8 and placed 124th. A total of 280 runners participated in the race.

Carlson was 173rd at the first split, but moved past 126 runners over the remainder of the course. He advanced seven places between the final split and the finish line.

North Central College (Ill.) won the men's team title with a score of 43 (1-2-7-9-24). Washington University (Mo.) placed second at 110 and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse was third at 127. Haverford College (Pa.) was fourth at 213 and Wartburg College (Iowa) was fifth at 227.

The men's individual champion was Dhruvil Patel form North Central. He completed the course in 24:24.5. Second place went to Al Baldonado of North Central in 24:29.7. Andy Reischling from Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) tok third at 24:32.9, while fourth place was earned by Josh Schraeder of UW-La Crosse, who reached the finish line in 24:34.2. Ian McVey of Williams College (Mass.) placed fifth at 24:37.1.

It was the second consecutive season that Carlson and Montague ran at the NCAA Championships in cross country.

"I am extremely thankful to have had the past experiences to make this weekend feel routine," Carlson said. "During the build up to the race I knew what to expect and I was ready to go."

Being prepared wasn't quite enough for the start of the men's 8-kilometer competition.

"The actual race was still pretty wild," Carlson commented. "Someone fell at the start line so they called the race back. It was the first time I have ever been apart of that. Then when they started the race a second time, Michael and I got caught up in a huge pileup of people who were falling down about 600 meters into the race. After we through that pileup, Michael did a extremely good job of moving up. I had no idea that all of that crazyness had put us at the back of the race. Michael moving up really helped me stay engaged.

"Then when I realized just how far back I was, I did everything I could to move up, and I did a decent job of it," Carlson added. "The one goal in my mind was was to be All-American. I was close and it is unfortunate to have missed it by such a narrow margin (the top 40 finishers earned All-America honors). At the end of the day, I can't complain though."

Carlson said he received great encouragement and advice from Willamette's coaching staff.

"I heard my coaches during the race," Carlson recalled. "Head Coach Matt McGuirk told me I was five seconds off. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I just unfortunately did not have enough at the end. Crazy to think that this race was the end of my college cross country career. I'm extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this cross country program."

Montague also commented about the strange things that happened during the race.

"It was a crazy race," Montague noted. "To start, it was about 30 degrees with gusts of wind that made it feel like it was 20 or colder. There were two starts. On the first one, what felt like a minute into the race (but could've have been more than 200 meters), someone fell or got pushed and they called it back. It was the first time that's ever happened for me. On the second star,t I tried to get out harder to stick on Keith's shoulder more. He was a few spots ahead of me going into the first turn at about 300 meters."

"He (Keith) must've gotten pushed or something because he went down," Montague said. "I saw him trying to get up as I was about to pass and recognized it was him, so I grabbed his arm and pulled him up with me. It felt like I had gotten a second chance to be with him.

"About 200 meters later one guy shoved another off the course and Keith loudly said 'we're all friends here' which made me smile," Montague noted. "About 600 meters in, there was a huge pile up of about 20 to 30 guys. We ran full speed into it because it came out of nowhere.

"I tried to push off the pack so I could keep going but someone ran into me so I was pushed back onto the pile," Montague said. "I tried again to get off but another guy ran what felt like full speed into me. I got hit hard back onto the pile again. So for the third attempt off the pile I just tried to move to the side as fast as I could. Somewhere in that havoc I must've gotten spiked. I have three decent sized cuts on my left shin.

"We started moving really fast to try and catch up to the pack," Montague commented. "I think we were both pretty frazzled. My race plan was out the window. The rest of the race I just tried to stay on the outside in case something like that happened again. I ended up 124th which I am kind of disappointed in, but it is just motivation for next year. I wish I could've been up with Keith trying to push him because all he needed was a little bit more to be an All-American which he so deserves. 

"It was really relaxing to be there for a second time together (at the NCAA meet)," Montague added. "Keith is my best friend and I feel really fortunate to be close with him. I was a lot less nervous than I thought I was going to be because we race the Wisconsin course once a year, so it was my fourth time."