Women’s XC finishes 12th at NCAA Championships

Michael Keeley

Over the weekend, nine Wildcat runners travelled down to Louisville, KY, to compete in Saturday’s NCAA Cross Country Championships. All eyes were on junior Bella Burda and the no. 13 ranked women’s cross country team, who of course in October won the BIG EAST Championships. In addition to the team’s achievements, Burda this past week individually won the Mid-Atlantic Region Women’s Athlete of the Year award in addition to being named to the All-BIG EAST team again.

On Saturday, the Wildcats put in another strong performance, and blazed through E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park to secure an impressive 12th place finish out of 31 teams, doing well to outperform their no. 13 ranking. Burda led the team’s efforts and finished 65th out of 255 with a time of 20:26.48. Finishing behind Burda for the Wildcats were senior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner(88th), junior Nicole Hutchinson(90th), junior Kaley Ciluffo(98th), freshman Lauren Ryan(127th), senior Katie Fisher(138th) and freshman Rachel McArthur(204th). Burda, Hutchinson, Fisher and Ciluffo all improved on their places from last year’s NCAA Championship in Indiana, where they finished 136th, 197th, 210th and 225th. Cleirigh Buttner also finished comparably to Indiana, where she was 85th. These individual results were a large part of Wildcats’ impressive improvement to 12th place up from 2016’s 21st. These individual and team improvements should prove to be a great momentum builder for such a young team of runners going into the indoor and outdoor track seasons, led of course by the now seven-time All Big East award winner Burda.

On the men’s side although the Wildcats did not qualify as a team, two men’s runners did qualify and compete individually. Sophomores Andrew Marston and Casey Comber travelled down together to represent themselves and the University. Despite the lack of a team in a sport where having familiar runners around you is an underappreciated asset among outside observers, Marston and Comber persevered to push through the crowd to proudly represent the Wildcats. Out of 250 runners, Marston and Comber showed despite this disappointing season the pedigree of the five time BIG EAST champions, finishing 55th and 69th respectively. After finishing 146th overall last season as a freshman, Marston put a cap on a great season in Louisville with such a large jump in his placing from Indiana in 2016. This was Comber’s first NCAA Championship, making his impressive 69th overall finish even more-so. These results are a great sign for the Wildcats, who are undoubtedly looking forward to seeing these two talented young runners improve into their junior and senior Cross Country seasons.

With both the Men’s and Women’s Cross Country seasons now concluded, the Wildcats runners are now looking forward to the indoor track season and the work that comes with it to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship in Birmingham, Alabama.