Denison senior Dee Salukombo capped off a brilliant cross country career on Saturday by placing eighth out of 279 runners at the 2011 NCAA Division III Championship from Winneconne, Wis.
Salukombo's eighth-place finish marked the best performance by a male at the NCAA Championship. It also marked his third consecutive All-American performance at the meet. Salukombo checked into the meet with plenty of experience running big-time races. As a freshman in 2008 he qualified for nationals but placed 236th out of 278 runners. Over the last three years all Salukombo has done is improve, placing 33rd overall as a sophomore and 29th last year.
Maybe it was a sense of urgency that fueled Salukombo, but his senior year has been by far the best of his career. He won four meet championships this year and placed second in last week's NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
Today he would get off to a strong start and would actually maintain fifth place overall for the first four miles of the race. In the final mile Matthew Perez of North Central, Kevin McCarthy of Wabash and William Whitmore of Chicago would pass Salukombo, resulting in the eighth-place finish with a time of 24:21.45. That was a personal best for Salukombo at the national meet, surpassing his previous best, set last year, by 29 seconds. His time would average out to a 4:54 per mile pace.
As noted, this marked the best performance by a male runner at the Division III Cross Country Championship in school history. It erases the previous record that was set by Jim Alexander in 1972 when he placed 16th overall.
The individual winner of the race was Ben Sathre of St. Thomas who posted a time of 23:44.27 while outdistancing SUNY Geneseo's Lee Berube by five seconds. The team championship went to North Central (Ill.) who finished with a score of 110. Haverford was second with 172 points and Washington University (Mo.) placed third with 206 points. This is the fourth All-American citation for Salukombo and his third in cross country.