Women's cross country ties for 17th at NCAA's

UCSD women’s cross country capped off its most successful season in Division II history by tying for 17th place out of 23 squads at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championships in Ashland, Ohio. The team, ranked 18th nationally heading into the event at Brookside Golf Course, finished with 421 points to tie Edinboro University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 23.

Guardian file photo

The race was the first-ever appearance at the Division II national championship meet for the women’s team, coming off the heels of its third-place showing at the NCAA Western Regional Championships that qualified them for the national meet — where rain, wind, and a chance of snow provided harsh conditions, especially on the cold and muddy 6K course.

Audrey Sung led the Tritons, finishing 15th individually to qualify for the team race, and 19th overall among 184 total competitors. At the NCAA regional championships, an allotted number of teams advance to the race, but so do the top two individual runners on teams that do not make the cut for nationals. Her time of 22:31.8 in the 6,000-meter race earned Sung her first-ever NCAA All-American title in cross country, an honor given to the top 30 finishers in the meet.

Following Sung were UCSD’s Lillian Gardiner, who finished 86th with a time of 24:04.4; Erin O’ Donnell, who finished 95th (24:14.2); Mimi Hodgins in 111th (24:30.1); Lindsay Stalker in 114th (24:31.6); Meghan Bellotti in 133rd (24:47.6); and Kara Cross in 135th place (24:48.3).

UCSD’s trip to the national championships almost never happened. Ranked No. 3 in the Western Region heading into the California Collegiate Athletic Championships, the women’s team was upended by Cal State Stanislaus and finished fourth, dropping to No. 6 in the regional poll and leaving the Tritons in danger of missing a national berth.

But the Tritons rebounded and reclaimed their regional ranking, surpassing CSU Stanislaus at the Western Regional for the third and final national championship spot.

Leading the way was Sung, who had a third-place finish among 131 runners and earned her first All-West Region Team honor by finishing among the top 15 runners. Following Sung was Gardiner (24th), Bellotti (28th), Hodgins (35th), O’Donnell (36th), Stalker (51st) and Cross (60th).

The men’s team fell just short in its attempt to return to the national championships following last year’s 15th-place showing in the meet. The Tritons finished fourth at the Western Regional, losing out 103-113 to the University of Alaska at Anchorage for the third and final berth.

Elsewhere in the NCAA championship meet, Western State College of Colorado swept both races, earning its fourth-consecutive national championship on the men’s side and third consecutive in the women’s event. In the women’s race, the Mountaineers edged out Adams State College, also of Colorado, 43-46 to claim the national title.