CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A day that started with a record-breaking performance from senior Kimberly Johansen ended in frustration for sophomore Nick Ciolkowski and the Elon University cross country teams Friday at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships.
Johansen ended a sparkling cross country career with a school record time of 20:51.7 in the 6-kilometer race and her second-straight All-Region finish, taking 14th place. After finishing 25th last season at the race, just barely making the cut for All-Region, Johansen needed to storm past 15 runners to finish in the mid-teens.
“To move up so well the last three or two kilometers was exactly what I focused on,” Johansen said. “To come out and not just exceed our expectations but have a school record on such a difficult course, it was shocking to see I ran that fast. I am just over the moon that I was 14th and have that school record as my way to go out.”
But disappointment set in on the men’s side, where Ciolkowski had to pull out of the race between the fifth and sixth kilometer with an injury to his left side. He was in ninth at the 2-kilometer split, and was seen in the top-15 near the halfway point, which head coach Nick Polk said only made it more difficult.
“Nick not finishing kills the team,” Polk said. “To lose your No. 1 guy, someone who is that far up, it adds over 100 points to your team score. I thought the guys had solid days, but the score will look worse than it is because of losing [Ciolkowski].”
Elon finished in 27th place in the men’s race with 716 points. The top finisher was freshman Ian Mickool,who took 125th place.
The women’s team finished 11th in the meet with 300 points, directly behind Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) rivals the College of William & Mary and James Madison University.
All five Elon runners placed in the top-100, as sophomore Coralea Geraniotis finished in 48th place, freshman Melissa Anastasakis took 57th, redshirt sophomore Carolyn Hopkins ended in 86th place and junior Corey Weiss rounded out the scorers for Elon in 96th place.
“The women were ranked 14th and we finished 11th, so we did exceed our ranking,” Polk said. “It’s good to see, but I was hoping for more. Last year, we were ranked 13th and finished 7th, and I thought the opportunity was there to get [that high]. Just like in the conference meet, we had a few run really good races, and a few just had off days again.”
All five Elon runners placed in the top-100, as Geraniotis finished in 48th place, Anastasakis took 57th, redshirt sophomore Carolyn Hopkins ended in 86th place and Weiss rounded out the scores for Elon in 96th place. The solid day for the younger runners had Johansen seeing promise in her teammates moving forward.
“The whole entire team, even the girls who aren’t here today, should be extremely confident going forward,” Johansen said. “Each and every single one of them is extremely talented, and it’s been an honor to guide them this far. I take pride in each one of them, and if they just work hard and keep their goals up there, they’re going to go far and this program is going to go very far.”
Johansen’s career isn’t over, as she still will run for the track and field team in the spring.
The English distance runner has her sights set on completing the “double” of winning both the 800-meter and 1500-meter races at the CAA championships, something she pulled off in 2014 but couldn’t accomplish last year.
“To have this finish on a cross country course just gives me that extra drive and an attitude that I can do what I want to do on the track,” Johansen said. “I can go as far as I want to go. It’s going to give me that added fuel to the fire for track. I would love to repeat the double from sophomore year.”