The Weber State University women’s cross-country team recorded its highest-ever place of victory at the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.
After accumulating a point total of 428, the Wildcats finished in 17th place overall as a team — the highest in the history of WSU.
The Wildcats were once again led by Amber Henry, who earned All-American honors due to her overall finish of 32nd place.
“We ran a solid race today and were pleased to have our best performance ever at the national meet,” said WSU Head Coach Paul Pilkington in an interview with the WSU Athletics Department after the meet. “We kind of got caught back early on and had to work our way back into the field, but we raced well, and Amber did well to earn All-American honors.”
Henry ran the 6-kilometer course with a time of 20 minutes and 11.6 seconds. She recently repeated her title of Big Sky Champion for the 2012 season.
WSU senior Sarah Callister continued her solid level of performance to help lead the Wildcats to their record-high finish. Callister, who holds many of the WSU top-10 records for various events, finished the championship event with a time of 20:38.3.
Wildcat senior Taylor Thornley finished 106th overall with a time of 20:59.6. Senior Laken Hintze finished in 164th place with a time of 21:13.4, and Kayla Blackford was 177th at 21:21.3.
Freshman Jamie Stokes took 185th place overall, and junior Suzanna Cressall finished in 227th place.
“I think we’re all very happy with our full season,” Henry said. “We accomplished a lot of great things, and we even did another thing that had never been done in Weber State history and placed 17th at nationals. We kind of thought we could do better, but, after performing so well at regionals, I guess whatever happened happened.”
Henry, who led the Wildcats in each race this season, said the championships were quite a special experience.
“It was really neat,” Henry said. “There were a bunch of fans there. . . . The course itself wasn’t a very good national course — it narrowed down really quickly, and it was quite troublesome for many runners unless they were right in the very front. But the rest of the environment was beautiful, the weather was really nice, and the fans were great. It was really cool to see people get so excited over running.”
As Henry explained, the WSU women’s team will give up many of its top runners after this season.
“We’ll lose a lot of runners,” she said. “We’ll lose Sarah Callister, Taylor Thornley, Suzie Cressall and Laken Hintze. So there are only three of us that were on the traveling squad that will be back next year. But we have a strong, young team that didn’t make the traveling team, even though they will be that much more progressed by next year. So we’ll be good. . . . We still have indoor and outdoor track, so it’s OK — it hasn’t hit us yet. But it’s going to be a lot different. By the end of the outdoor track season, it will be really sad.”
After the successful season, Henry said, the team will have a short break and then get right back to work.
“We’re taking a week off and given time to run on our own,” Henry said. “Then we’ll start organized practice in another week and do some more workouts geared toward our individual-type racing and focused on the indoor season. We all do different things, so Coach will kind of gear us up for our own kind of race.”
As the 2012 season ends for the WSU women’s cross-country team, the successes for the team include being named Big Sky Conference Champions, the group’s first Mountain Region title, its highest-ever national ranking, and a school-record finish at the NCAA Championships.