Whitman Cyclists Win D-2Title - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Whitman Cyclists Win D-2Title

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Order has been restored to the world of collegiate cycling; Whitman College is back on top.

Three years ago, Whitman celebrated the second of back-to-back national titles. Now, after slipping off the summit of the sport for the past two seasons, Whitman is back at the front of the pack.

Racing last weekend in Fort Collins, Colo., Whitman won the USA Cycling Collegiate Road Division II national championship in convincing fashion. Starting with the 80-mile road race and fast-paced criterium and finishing with the 18-mile team time trial, the Missionary men and women amassed a whopping 500 total points.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) finished a distant second with 373 points. Western Washington, the team that was second to Whitman at the recent Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference championships, placed third at nationals with 269 points.

Unlike a year ago, Whitman took full teams (four men, four women) to nationals, and six of those eight riders knew what to expect, having competed previously on the national stage.
       
Senior Nick Littman (Novato, Calif.; Marin Academy) led juniors Colin Gibson (Seattle, Wash.; Shorecrest HS), Ben Chaddock (Richmond, B.C.; Matthew McNair Secondary) and Duncan McGovern (Peterborough, N.H.; Contoocook Valley Regional HS) to Whitman's first-ever national title in the men's overall team scoring. Scoring consistently well throughout the weekend, the Missionary men contributed 229 points to the school total.
         
Juniors Kendi Thomas (Greencastle, Ind.; Greencastle HS) and Mia Huth (Turlock, Calif.; Turlock HS) provided the experience and high expectations for the women's team, which also benefited from a fresh burst of energy from two national newcomers, sophomore Roxy Pierson (Wilson, Wyo.; Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.) and junior Emily Rodriguez (Ossining, N.Y.; Our Lady of Victory Academy, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.).

In Saturday morning's 60-minute criterium in downtown Fort Collins, Rodriguez and Pierson triggered Whitman's masterful use of team tactics with repeated early assaults on the field. Huth provided a perfect leadout into the final corner, launching Thomas, the team's star sprinter, to the front with 150 meters to go.

Thomas won the sprint to the finish, capturing her first national criterium title, thanks in part to the immeasurable and honorable sacrifices of her teammates. Pierson also rallied in the final two laps and followed Thomas through the final sprint, placing an amazing sixth in her first national criterium event.
    
In the road race, competing on a steep course in windy conditions, all four Whitman women were part of the 25-rider lead group as it headed into the Masonville laps. Thomas and Rodriguez, who stayed with the lead pack through the last three climbs prior to the stadium finish, made it through a final corner crash to finish strong, placing sixth and 13th, respectively.
   
After taking first in the team scoring in both the criterium and road race, the Whitman women wrapped up a stellar performance by winning the team time trial by nearly a minute. Their winning time was 45:33.9. MIT was second (46:28.8) and Yale third (47:00.4). Whitman also took top honors in the women's overall team scoring, accumulating 271 total points.

In the women's individual omnium, which combines results from the criterium and road race, Thomas finished in second place with 259 points, just two points behind DePauw University's Rita Klofta.

The strong showing by Thomas and the women's squad came as no surprise. A year ago, Thomas placed second in both the road race and criterium, and tied for the top spot in the women's omnium, while the team as a whole was first in the road race and second in the criterium.

On the men's side last weekend, Chaddock gave Whitman its best individual performance with a fourth-place showing in the criterium. He finished in 1:13:40.30, one-tenth of a second out of third place. Littman was 17th, McGovern 24th and Gibson 56th.
   
Duncan led the way in the men's road race, placing ninth in 3:06.07.90. Gibson was 15th (3:06:19.20) and Littman 17th (3:06:20.00). In the men's team time trial, Whitman took third in 37:23.0, about nine seconds behind runner-up Princeton. Furman University filled the top spot.

Littman and McGovern placed 12th and 13th, respectively, in the men's individual omnium.
     
Whitman's success at nationals came after the squad finished one of its best-ever conference seasons. The Missionaries ruled the conference with 5,976 points, well ahead of second-place Western Washington and its 4,561 points.

The size of the Missionary victory is a testament to team depth. Conference points are awarded in seven different rider categories, and Whitman was successful from top to bottom. The Missionaries filled each category with strong riders.
      
Thomas and Littman were first and third in their respective individual omniums as Whitman piled up more "category A" points than any other school.

In the conference criterium race, Chaddock and McGovern finished one-two in category A, while senior Lindsay Records (Boulder, Colo.; Boulder HS) won in women's category C. The rest of the team followed suit and Whitman previewed the dominance that would come at nationals by securing 571 team points in the road races, 324 at the team time trial and 630 in the criteriums for a total of 1,525 conference points. Western Washington again placed second with a weekend total of 703 points.

The conference championships took place over April 25-26 on the campuses of Washington State in Pullman, Wash., and the University of Idaho in Moscow.

A number of Whitman's cyclists have added athletic experience with a few of the school's varsity teams. Thomas and Gibson are swimmers, Littman and Rodriguez are cross country runners, and Pierson is a Nordic skier. Records captained the women's Nordic ski team last winter, and Chaddock is a former member of the alpine ski team. 
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