The No. 17 nationally ranked Bates women's cross country team made waves with its fourth-place finish at Saturday's NCAA Regionals in Westfield, Mass., finishing well ahead of rivals Tufts and Amherst to earn its first team berth in the NCAA Champioships since 1997.
Surprisingly, amidst the team's success, one of the Bobcats' captains, senior Lindsay Cullen (Newburyport, Mass.), who placed second on the team at regionals a year ago, was unable to run her best race on Saturday, due to cramping. Cullen still placed 90th overall among 366 runners, finishing seventh among her teammates, but Bates needed a breakthrough performance elsewhere to do as well as it did.
Enter sophomore Elena Jay -- always a solid contributor to the team's successes, but her fifth-place showing on the team two weeks ago, when Bates tied for fourth place at the NESCAC Championships, was more typical of how she has fared thus far in her collegiate career. The West Hartford, Conn., native and former Hall High School standout rose to the occasion with her best race by far as a collegian on Saturday, finishing 25th, up from 54th last year, to earn her first All-NeW England honors.
Junior Gabby Naranja (Fort Kent, Maine) led the Bobcats, finishing in 14th place among 366 runners overall. Naranja covered the 6-kilometer course in 22:05.23, and was the first of four Bobcats who earned All-New England honors by placing among the top 35 individuals.
Beginning with Jay, Bates’ second through sixth runners were all better than their counterparts on all but the top three teams, underscoring Bates’ powerhouse performance.
Jay finished the course in 22:18.03. Senior captain Alicia Fannon (Haverhill, Mass.) claimed All-New England laurels for the second straight year, placing 32nd in 22:23.97, and first-year Hannah Zeltner (Bedford, N.H.) came in 35th in 22:29.23, the fifth-fastest rookie in the field. Junior Mira Carey-Hatch (Laconia, N.H.) finished in 39th place with her time of 22:36.13, a remarkably high placement for Bates’ fifth and final point-scorer. Junior captain Amanda Solch (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) was 54th in 22:51.50, as Bates scored 145 points, finishing behind only No. 1 MIT (58), No. 3 Williams (75) and No. 5 Middlebury (89), and well ahead of then-17th-ranked Amherst (190) and sixth-place and 20th-ranked Tufts (210).
Saturday’s NCAA championship race, hosted by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind., begins at 11am, followed by the women’s race at 12pm (Webcast / Timing Site / Host Site). The Bates men’s team also earned an at-large bid and will make its second straight team appearance at NCAAs. It will be the first time both Bates teams will compete as a full squad at NCAAs in the same year.