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Mitchell takes third in NCAA Division 3 national title race

An exhausted Ayla Mitchell gets her bearings after taking third place in the NCAA Division 3 national championship race.

On the largest stage of her running career, Ayla Mitchell shown her brightest.

Mitchell finished third in the 2008 NCAA Division III Championships, held Nov. 22 in Hanover, Ind. Her time of 21:02 earned the New Richmond native All-American honors. Her performance in the 6,000-meter race led UW-Oshkosh to an 18th place finish in the team standings.

Mitchell ran to All-American honors at the 2007 NCAA Division III Championship held in Northfield, Minn., with a 13th-place time of 21:45.

UW-Oshkosh coach Deb Vercauteren said Mitchell's goal was to place in the top five at this year's national championships.

"In her last two races (the NCAA regionals and nationals) she was just awesome," Vercauteren said.

Vercauteren said she expects Mitchell to continue to improve. The Titan coaches had Mitchell increase her mileage and her work in the weight room, which Vercauteren attributed to part of Mitchell's increased success. Another reason Vercauteren gave was Mitchell' relentless work to make herself better.

"She loves to compete and she's a great competitor," Vercauteren said.

Vercauteren also said New Richmond fans will get an opportunity to see Mitchell run next fall. UW-O has added the Roy Griak Invitational, which is run at the University of Minnesota, to its schedule for next fall. The NRHS cross country teams run in the Griak Invite each year.

Mitchell has been selected as the 2008 NCAA Division III Midwest Region Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Mitchell won four of the seven races that she competed in during the 2008 season, including the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional on Nov. 15. Her other victories were at the Carroll University Invitational on Sept. 6, Calvin College (Mich.) Invitational on Sept. 20 and the Notre Dame (Ind.) Invitational on Oct. 3. Mitchell also finished second at the WIAC Championship on Nov. 1.

Mitchell was one of eight NCAA Division III athletes earning the regional distinction, with the others being Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence University (N.Y.) in the Atlantic, Marie Borner of Bethel University (Minn.) in the Central, Joanna Johnson of Oberlin College (Ohio) in the Great Lakes, Christa Johnson of Ursinus College (Pa.) in the Mideast, Elise Tropiano of Amherst College (Mass.) in the New England, Taylor Stephens of Rhodes College (Tenn.) in the South/Southeast and Maddie Coffman of Willamette University (Ore.) in the West.

The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced Nov. 21 that the organization will create an award to honor the all-around success that UW-Oshkosh head women's cross country and track and field coach Deb Vercauteren has achieved.

The Deb Vercauteren Program of the Year Award will be presented annually to the most outstanding NCAA Division III women's cross country and track and field program. The award will honor the institution that has achieved the most success in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field at the NCAA Division III Championships.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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