SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – David Mitter is set to become the first Lake Superior State men's or women's cross country runner to compete at the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships this millennium, when he toes the line on Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Mitter, who is the first Laker to compete at the national championships since at least 1999, will start the 10,000-meter-race, held at the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park, at 11 a.m. EST. The only Lake State team to compete at nationals is the 1991 men's team, which finished 14th.
"This is an exciting time for LSSU cross country and I can't imagine a better athlete to represent us," Lake Superior State Track and Field and Cross Country head coach Rob Gallinger said. "David has shown a drive to succeed from the first day of practice last year, and has elevated the team through that effort."
A sophomore from Howell, Michigan who is majoring in mechanical engineering, Mitter was selected as one of 27 individual qualifiers for the national championships after finishing eighth out of 217 competitors in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Cross Country Championships on Nov. 17 at Hayden Park in Hillsdale, Michigan. Mitter ran a 10,000 meter personal best time of 31:56.6 as he led the Lakers to a 20th-place finish out of 32 teams. His previous personal best was 33:42.3, which he ran at last year's regional.
Mitter found out he made the championship field on Nov. 19.
"I did not think I was going to nationals, up until the time I found out," Mitter said. "My dad calls me at 4:55 (p.m.) and I had an exam in five minutes." Mitter added, "He calls me and tells me that online it says that I was going (to nationals), and it was just crazy to find out. I can't guarantee that I did too good on that exam because of that – because the entire exam, this was all I was thinking about."
After getting out of his exam, Mitter went and shared the news with his coaches. They believe that David has the chance to have another strong race at nationals.
"David has put a lot of work in this season and been excelling at an extremely high rate from last year," assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Dani Filipek said. "More will come from David and his years at LSSU. This weekend will be nothing less than a pivotal point for LSSU distance running, and we are thrilled to see him compete and go after it at Nationals."
Mitter can earn All-American honors if he finishes among the top-40 competitors at the race, which features thirty four teams and 27 individual qualifiers.
"Just find a pack, stick on them and do not fall off," Mitter said about his race strategy. "We race 8K all year and you move to 10K – just that last 2K is all mental. Who can push themselves to maintain pace, or speed up, or whatever you have to do." Mitter added, "Basically we are just aiming top 40, and maybe in the last 2k, use that (mental toughness) to pick up some places."
Gallinger is proud of Mitter, while also seeing more room for growth.
"We are thrilled that David has an opportunity to compete at the highest level and proud of what he's been able to accomplish so far, David is going to do more amazing things in his time at Lake State."
Watch an interview with David Mitter below.