Nov. 12, 2016
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – History was made this afternoon, as the Air Force women’s cross country team receive a bid to the NCAA Championships – becoming the first women’s team in Academy history to earn a spot at a national championship in any Division I sport. The women will be joined at the NCAA Championships by junior Andrew Johnston, who earned an individual bid into the men’s race.
The women, who had qualified just two individuals to the NCAA Cross Country Championships since joining Division I in 1996, earned an at-large team bid after finishing third at the Mountain Regional. Junior Carina Gillespie and sophomore Jaci Smith finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 135-run 6K race, while senior Lindy Long (19th) joined the pair as an all-region honoree. Classmate Samantha Skold (35th) and junior Katie Burnham (49th) rounded out the Falcons’ scoring lineup, while freshman Lindsey Blanks (62nd) and sophomore Shanna Burns (77th) also competed at the regional meet.
Johnston earned his individual bid after finishing 14th out of 113 runners during the regional 10K race. Johnston’s selection marks the fourth straight year that Air Force has sent at least one member of the men’s team to the national championship meet.
It will be the first NCAA appearance for all Air Force runners.
In all, 31 teams were selected for their respective championship races. The top two teams from each of the nine regional meets earned automatic berths to Terre Haute, while 13 additional squads were chosen by an at-large selection process. The top four runners from each region that were not on an advancing team – and finished within the top 25 at the regional – also qualified to the national meet.
The NCAA Division I Championships will take place next Saturday (Nov. 19) on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Indiana.