WSU - Women's Cross Country Records Best National Finish Ever
Provided by WSU
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Competing in the NCAA Division II National Championship Meet for the first time since 2008, the inexperienced Wayne State University women's cross country squad ran to a sixth-place team finish (out of 32 schools) at the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky. as part of the NCAA Division II Sports Festival. The sixth-place finish is the highest ever for WSU in its fifth appearance at the national championship (9th in 2002, T-16th in 2003, 14th in 2007 and 12th in 2008).
The Warriors, who entered the meet ranked eighth nationally by the USTFCCCA, finished with 219 points and as the third-team from the very competitive Midwest Region. Grand Valley State won the meet with 50 points, while Hillsdale was second with 115 points. Minnesota-Duluth (118), Adams State, Colo. (125) and Augustana, S.D. (206) finished ahead of WSU. Simon Fraser, B.C. (225), Alaska Anchorage (290), Roberts Wesleyan, N.Y. (295) and Colorado Mines (342) rounded out the top 10.
Wayne State was led by senior Lauren Gagnon (Waterford, Mich. / Waterford Mott), who earned All-America accolades with a 31st-place finish (21:57.8). Juniors Kayla Balfour (St. Clair, Mich.) and Brittany Johnson (Oxford, Mich.) also earned All-America status by placing 33rd (21:58.8) and 38th (22:03.5), respectively. The top 40 finishers earn All-America honors.
Contributing to the team scoring for the Warriors were senior Kayla Smade (Columbus, Mich. / St. Clair), who placed 61st (22:32.0), and junior Chelsea Johnson (Oxford, Mich.), who crossed the finish line in 22:54.3, good enough for 105th out of 249 runners.
Also competing for WSU were senior Cara Smock (Wyandotte, Mich. / Roosevelt), who finished 200th (24:07.6), and sophomore Leah Coonrod (Kalamazoo, Mich. / Gull Lake), who ran a 24:10.4 to finish in 202nd place.
Hall of Fame inductee Shelly Vickery was an All-American in 2002 with a 12th-place finish, with Rachelle Malette placing fifth in 2007 to also earn All-America honors. Malette was also an All-American in 2006 by finishing 14th while running as an individual. Malette concluded her stellar collegiate career with a sixth-place finish in 2008 to earn her third consecutive All-America accolade. The last women's cross country All-American was Amanda Brewer in 2012. Brewer is a senior on this year's squad but was limited due to an injury.
Head Coach Rick Cummins quotebook following today's meet: "The girls were awesome today! They worked so hard. Sometimes they (WSU women's cross country squad) get overshadowed in our region because it is so good. The running people know (how good are region is), but other people may not realize it. Our conference (the GLIAC) went 1-2-6-11 at the NCAA Championships today. We have other teams that would have finished in the top 20 had they been able to run. Just a pheonomenal performance by our girls and the GLIAC.
"CJ (Chelsea Johnson) didn't bring her "A" game but she toughed it out and ran really solid. Sometimes it is easier to be one of the front people where you are running where everything is going well. Brittany (Johnson), Lauren (Gagnon) and KB (Kayla Balfour) were real tough. (Kayla) Smade was great. That may have been the best race she has ever ran. She was absolutely phenomenal. CJ just hung in there and kept fighting. She had an off day but still worked her butt off and gave us a chance to do something special, and we did. This is the best finish in school history with three more All-Americans.
"I am just so proud of this team. This is a special group and they deserve it. I'm so happy to be a part of it and just getting to work with these kids every day."