The Hopkins women’s cross country team won their seventh national championship last month, beating out the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas by just two points. Only one other program in NCAA Division III history, SUNY-Cortland, can say that they’ve accomplished as much as the Blue Jays.
The team traveled to Louisville, Kentucky on November 20, where seven women competed for Hopkins in the 6K. Out of the seven ladies, only one had any sort of experience competing in a Division III Cross Country Championship – and not as a Blue Jay. Despite the lack of NCAA Championship experience, the Blue Jays still proved to be a formidable opponent.
One standout of the meet is senior captain Ella Baran picking off three girls in the final stretch of the race to land herself in ninth place – earning crucial points for the Blue Jays. Her time of 21:03.1 is the second-fastest time run by a Blue Jay in the NCAA Championships in program history.
Head coach Bobby Van Allen, who has been with the team throughout all seven national championship titles, spoke about her contribution to the team’s win.
"Ella coming back was inspiring to everyone. Her goal was to just do her best and be there for her teammates,” he commented. “She put in so much work and I was just so happy to see it all come together for her in the way it did.”
Senior Alex Ross and sophomore Paloma Hancock crossed the finish line soon after, finishing 21:33.4 and 21:35.5 respectively. They placed 20th and 21st for Hopkins. Ross, Hancock, and Baran were also named All-Americans due to this achievement.
Sophomore Ashley Heidenrich, graduate student Dianna Vizza, and junior Sara Stephenson finished within 11 seconds of each other. Heidenrich went 21:54.1 and placed 46th. Vizza clocked in at 21:59.6 at 54th and Stephenson placed 56th, going 22:05.0.
Finally, senior Lina Spjut finished 87th at 22:24.1. This means that all seven Jays finished in the top-90 of 292 total competitors.
Van Allen shared his feelings amid this historic moment in Blue Jay history.
“I'm so proud of this team,” he said. “They executed our race plan to near perfection. We really did a nice job establishing our pack and positioning early and that really helped us move up throughout the race.”
Van Allen has also been named National Coach of the Year for the seventh time over the course of his career. No coach has received this honor more times than Van Allen; Terry Aldrich of Middlebury College falls second, having received the award six times.
Now, Van Allen and the team will transition to the indoor track season, kicking off the winter season at the Fast Track Season Opener and the Bison Opener.