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Fankhouser leads FLC at regional, qualifies for nationals

Skyhawks finish 10th out of 24 teams
Katie Fankhouser of Fort Lewis College, pictured competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships at Hillcrest Golf Club, finished 11th in the South Central Region on Saturday She earned an at-large bid for the national championships with her performance. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Paced by an 11th-place finish from Katie Fankhouser, the Fort Lewis College women’s cross-country team finished 10th in a field of 24 teams at the NCAA Division II South Central Regional at Washington Park in Denver on Saturday morning.

“Katie proved herself as a huge factor at the conference and regional level,” head coach Shawn Jakubowski told FLC Athletics. “We think she will be at the line at nationals, and I have no doubt that if she is given the chance in Seattle, she will prove herself at that level as well.”

Fankhouser, adding first-team all-region honors to her body of work, improved on her time at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships – a 22:21 mark that placed her 13th – with a 21:51.7 race that ranks sixth in program history in the 6K.

When the NCAA released its at-large selections on Monday, Fankhouser scored one of the region’s two selections. Kira MacGill of Colorado Mesa received the other.

Fankhouser will be the first Fort Lewis College women’s cross-country runner to compete at the NCAA Championships since Erin Renner earned an at-large berth in 2017.

“When I first started working with Katie last track season I knew right away she had all the tools it would require to become an NCAA DII national-caliber athlete,” Jakubowski said. “She is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached and has battled through a lot of injuries throughout her career to get where she is at. I have no doubt that Katie has the talent and will put herself in position to become a DII All-American in Seattle.”

“Qualifying for the NCAA National Championships is a dream come true, and I am beyond grateful for the opportunities God has blessed me with this season,” Fankhouser said. “I will be running for him and all the women on my team that have supported me every step of the way. See you in Seattle!”

Adams State University won the women’s regional team title with 67 points, followed by Colorado School of Mines (72), UCCS (84), CSU-Pueblo (106), Western Colorado (127), West Texas A&M (175), Colorado Christian (198), Dallas Baptist (221), Westminster (236), Fort Lewis (262) and Mesa (317) in 11th out of the 24 teams. The top three teams earned automatic bids to nationals, and the teams that finished fourth through eighth earned at-large bids.

West Texas A&M boasted the first- and second-place finishers in Florance Uwajeneza (21:08.58) and Eleonora Curtabbit (21:10.6)

Fort Lewis’ trio of Angel Curley, Sophia Mena and Esther Beck followed in quick succession of one another. Curley turned in a 53rd-place finish with a time of 23:18.1 – nearly two minutes faster than her time at the RMAC Championships. Mena crossed the line in 60th at 23:37.7 and improved on a 24:15.9 mark from two weeks ago. Beck followed closely behind with a 62nd-place finish in 23:41.6, and Carmella Wright rounded out FLC’s top five with a 24:14.2 mark, good for 76th.

“The women left it all out there today. There were tough conditions, but it didn’t hold them back,” Jakubowski said. “They secured their top 10 regional ranking. Our program is soaring in the right direction, and today was another huge step.”

The Skyhawks ran for a 2:22.5 spread with an average time of 23:20.66.

Nationals will be held Dec. 2 in Seattle.