TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Backed by a top-50 finish from sophomore Jaci Smith, the No. 20 Air Force women’s cross country team capped off an impressive 2016 season with a 25th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, which were held today (Nov. 19) in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Smith clocked a 6K time of 20:30.0 to finish 48th out of 248 runners during a cold and blustery day at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. With that time, Smith made her second appearance on the program’s all-time top-10 standings (ninth).
The Falcons placed two additional runners in the top half of the national field, as senior Samantha Skold finished 74th in 20:42.1 and junior Carina Gillespie took 121st with a time of 20:55.3. Senior Lindy Long crossed the finish line in 21:21.6 to take 187th, while freshman Lindsey Blanks rounded out the Falcons’ scoring lineup with a time of 21:50.3.
The women, competing at the NCAA Division I Championships for the first time in program history, tallied 527 points to finish 25th in national championship race. No. 12 Oregon captured the 2016 team title with 125 points, as they edged fifth-ranked Michigan by just one point (126). A total of nine points separated the top three teams, as No. 1 Colorado took third with 134 points. Second-ranked NC State (fourth, 233) and fourth-ranked Stanford (fifth, 255) rounded out the top five.
“Competing hard at the national championships is always how we hope to end our season,” head coach Ryan Cole said. “Overall, the group walked away feeling a bit unfulfilled, but that speaks to how far they’ve come; to be the 25th best team in the country and not really be overly satisfied is a big shift in the group mentality. But now our women know what is possible and that is extremely exciting for the future. When they look back on our program years from now, I hope this group of girls will appreciate that they made that possibility real.”
In the men’s 10K championship, junior Andrew Johnston finished 144th with a time of 31:11.4.
“Andy gained some valuable experience for his individual development and took a big step in his running career,” Cole said. “His training was very consistent this year, for really the first time in his career. That will be huge for him moving forward. But also being familiar with the dynamic of the NCAA meet will be valuable as Andy will be someone we look to next year to lead our men’s team. And I know there is nothing he’d like more than to have six teammates on the NCAA starting line with him next fall.”
Although the cross country season came to a close this afternoon, the Falcons’ distance runners will now turn their attention to the track. Air Force begins its 2016-17 track and field season on Friday, Dec. 9, when in hosts its annual Air Force Holiday Open at the Cadet Field House.