Collegiate cross country champions crowned

Banner Elk, N.C. (October 24, 2008) – The cross country competition kicked off the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships on Friday as nearly 200 collegians raced through the campus of Lees-McRae College for the second year in a row. The first day of competition set the stage for an old-fashioned shootout between host Lees-McRae College and last year’s overall team winner Fort Lewis College in Division I, while riders from nearby Brevard College and Appalachian State earned the Division II men’s and women’s crowns respectively.
Despite a strong challenge from Lees-McRae’s Scott Stewart (Banner Elk, N.C.), Division I favorite and defending champion Ben Sonntag (Durango, Colo.) of Fort Lewis College was able to overtake Stewart on the final lap and repeat his victory from a year ago. Lees-McRae’s Brad Perley (Banner Elk, N.C.) was able to grab third in the DI men’s race after another favorite, Rotem Ishay (Fort Lewis College) dropped his chain at the gun, leaving him playing catch-up throughout the nearly 25-mile contest. Oregon State University's Justin Finn (Corvallis, Ore) rounded out the podium as the only non-Lees-McRae or Fort Lewis rider in the top five.
“It was harder than last year,” said Fort Lewis’ Sontag. “Lees-McRae controlled the race from the start with a rider in right in front and behind me. I would make up some on the inclines, but I’d lose that on the downhill. My broken right index finger really affected my control on the descents. It was a good fight; Stewart ran a great race.”
The DII men’s race saw Midwest conference champion Zach Winn (Barbourville, Ky.) from Union College lead a hard charge out of the gate before succumbing to Brevard College’s Tristan Cowie (Dawsonville, Ga.) in the fourth of the five-lap affair. After practicing on the course for the past several days, Cowie used his technical expertise to take the win over a talented DII field including podium finishers Logan Wetzel (Western Washington University), Matthew Williams (Warren Wilson College) and Alex Hannah (Appalachian State University).
The DI women’s contest was a battle between multiple-time collegiate national road and track national champion Carla Swart (Banner Elk, N.C.) of Lees-McRae and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Jamie Dinkins (Powell, Tenn.). Dinkins, who finished 19th at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships U23 race in June, showed superb strength but in the end Swart used her home field advantage to take home another crown by more than two minutes. The University of Colorado-Boulder’s Eszter Horanyi (Boulder, Colo.) took third while a pair of Fort Lewis riders, Teal Stetson-Lee and downhill specialist Sage Wilderman (Durango, Colo.) added to their team’s point total.  
“The course was pretty muddy, but it was easier and a lot more fun than last year,” said Swart of the once-again wet Lees-McRae terrain. “I told myself to stay relaxed because when I get too fired up I can make mistakes.”
After missing the race start, Appalachian State University’s Rebecca Tomascewski (Boone, N.C.) came roaring back to take a slim victory in the DII women’s race. Tomascewskinarrowly out rode Melissa Marts (Colorado School of Mines) and Katherine Harris (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the rain shortened 15-mile race.  
With parts of the Lees-McRae cross country course once used for conference downhill competitions, there was a substantial amount of climbing on the just under 5-mile loop. Even though off-season modifications were made on the Lees-McRae course to make the wooded loop more ridable in wet conditions, Friday’s steady rains made the surface increasingly slick as they day moved forward. As the inclement weather became more and more of a factor, the afternoon’s scheduled downhill seeding runs were cancelled. Saturday’s finals are planned to continue as scheduled.
With four national titles already decided, racing will resume tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. with the short-track race on the campus of Lees-McRae College. Action will then move to nearly 5,000 feet on top of Sugar Mountain for the downhill competition slated for 2:00 p.m. The USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships will wrap-up on Sunday morning with the dual slalom competition.
USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships
Banner Elk, N.C.
October 24, 2008
Division I Men’s Cross Country
1. Benjamin Sonntag (Fort Lewis College)
2. Scott Stewart (Lees-McRae College)
3. Brad Perley (Lees-McRae College)
4. Rotem Ishay (Fort Lewis College)
5. Justin Finn (Oregon State University)
Division II Men’s Cross Country
1. Tristan Cowie (Brevard College)
2. Zach Winn (Union College)
3. Logan Wetzel (Western Washington University)
4. Matthew Williams (Warren Wilson College)
5. Alex Hannah (Appalachian State University)
Division I Women’s Cross Country
1. Carla Swart (Lees-McRae College)
2. Jamie Dinkins (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga)
3. Eszter Horanyi (University of Colorado-Boulder)
4. Teal Stetson-Lee (Fort Lewis College)
5. Sage Wilderman (Fort Lewis College)
Division II Women’s Cross Country
1. Rebecca Tomascewski (Appalachian State University)
2. Melissa Marts (Colorado School of Mines)
3. Katherine Harris (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
4. Rachel Millshop (Union College)
5. Joanna Tuttle (Brevard College)
 For complete results, click here. To view images visit the USA Cycling Photo Gallery, click here.
About USA Cycling   
Recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling is the official governing body for all disciplines of competitive cycling in the United States, including road, track, mountain bike, BMX and cyclo-cross.  As a membership-based organization and sanctioning body, USA Cycling consists of 64,000+ members, including 57,000 competitive cyclists, 1,500 coaches, 4,000 student-athletes, 2,200 officials, 350 professional cyclists, and 200 certified mechanics. USA Cycling also sanctions 2,500 competitive and non-competitive organized cycling events throughout the United States annually, as well as 1,800 clubs and teams. Associations of USA Cycling include the United States Cycling Federation (road, track & cyclo-cross), the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (mountain bike), the BMX Association, the National Collegiate Cycling Association and the United States Professional Racing Organization. USA Cycling is also responsible for the identification, development, support and promotion of American cyclists through various athletic initiatives and programs including the USA Cycling National Development Team, the USA Cycling Women’s National Team, the USA Cycling Junior Development Team, Talent Identification and Regional Development Camps, domestic and international race calendars, direct athlete funding and support programs, and educational camps and seminars. USA Cycling also fields and supports U.S. National Teams for various international events, including the Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan American Games, Continental Championship and World Cups across all levels and disciplines of competitive cycling. USA cycling further supports grass roots and locally-based initiatives through its 32 Local Associations and comprehensive network of licensed and certified coaches and officials. Additionally, USA Cycling conducts National Championship events for amateur and professional cyclists, awarding more than 600 national titles annually to men and women in junior, U23, masters, elite, professional and paralympic categories throughout the various disciplines of competitive cycling. To learn more about USA Cycling, visit For media-related or general inquiries, please contact USA Cycling Director of Communications, Andy Lee at 719-866-4867 or   
About Collegiate Cycling
 Collegiate Cycling is a division of USA Cycling that includes over 4,100 student athletes and more than 300 collegiate clubs and teams. USA Cycling-Collegiate is responsible for administering competitive bicycle racing in 10 unique collegiate conferences: Atlantic, Eastern, Southeast, Midwest, South Central, North Central, North West, South West, Western, and Rocky Mountain. Collegiate Cycling also administers all four USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships: Track, Mountain Bike, Cyclo-cross, and Road. Collegiate Cycling also recognizes the achievements of collegiate clubs and student-athletes with the Stenner and Kuck Scholarships as well as the Collegiate Performance Awards. To learn more about USA Cycling-Collegiate, visit

This Article Published October 24, 2008 For more information contact: