Six named to NCAC Cross Country All-Decade team

Denison University was well represented on the North Coast Athletic Conference 30th Anniversary Cross Country All-Decade team that was released by the league office in early September.

Six former members of the Big Red cross country teams were selected as the best of the best over a 10-year span beginning in 2003. Those athletes were Julie Hufnagel ’04, Christine Collins ’07, Elaine Binkley ’07, Grant Russo ’09, Katie Navarre ’11, and Makrobondo “Dee” Salukombo ’12.

Julie Hufnagel began her career in the fall of 2000 and went on to be named the NCAC Runner of the Year in 2003 after finishing first at the conference championship with a time of 18:55.00.  She is a three-time first-team all-conference honoree and a three-time all-region performer.  In 2003, Hufnagel earned All-American status after placing 31st overall at the NCAA Division III Championship. An NCAA Postgraduate Scholar, Hufnagel also earned Academic All-America honors as a senior.

Christine Collins was named the NCAC Runner of the Year in 2004 after winning the conference championship meet with a time of 22:55.  She was a first-team all-conference honoree on three occasions (2003-05). At the 2004 Great Lakes Regional she finished sixth overall and helped Denison to the overall team title.

Elaine Binkley was a four-time first-team all-conference award winner and was the NCAC Newcomer of the year in 2003. She would go on to earn All-America status in 2003, and again in 2004, after posting 22nd place and 28th place finishes at the NCAA Division III Championship.  In 2004, Binkley and Collins helped lead Denison to a program-best eighth-place national finish. Blinkley left Denison as a three-time Academic All-America and in 2007 she was named the Academic All-America of the Year for cross country and track & field.

Grant Russo was an all-conference honoree in cross country from 2005-08.  As a senior he was named the NCAC Runner of the Year after finishing first at the conference championship with a time of 24:56. In 2008 he placed 12th at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship and qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship where he finished 81st overall.

Katie Navarre was tabbed NCAC Runner of the Year after finishing first at the conference championship with a time of 22:09.9.  She earned her second All-America certificate that season after placing sixth overall at the NCAA Division III Championship, marking the highest finish by a Denison athlete at the national championship race.   One year earlier, Navarre finished ninth at the D-III Championship and was second overall at the NCAC Championship.  Navarre earned a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and is a two-time Academic All-America selection.

Dee Salukombo was named to the NCAC first-team in all four years eligible from 2008-11. He was the 2011 NCAC Runner of the Year and the 2008 conference Newcomer of the Year while gaining all-region accolades four times.  A two-time All-American in cross country and a six-time All-American overall, Salukombo finished eighth at the 2011 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship with a time of 24:21.45.

Of the 20 athletes selected to the 30th Anniversary All-Decade team, Denison had the second-most awardees (six), trailing only Allegheny (seven).  The schools with the third-highest representation on the teams were Wabash and Oberlin with two athletes each.