LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Saint Michael's College women's cross country team finished 30th among 32 teams at the NCAA Division II Championship on Saturday at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park during its debut at the national meet. The event was part of the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championships Festival, as co-hosted by the Louisville Sports Commission and Bellarmine (Ky.) University.
The Purple Knights scored 865 points to edge 31st-place University of North Georgia, which collected 872. Saint Michael's was one of three teams competing from the East Region, as regional champion Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College placed ninth with 295 points and Northeast-10 Conference counterpart Stonehill College nabbed 19th with 503. The teams were 15th and 20th, respectively, in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national poll. No. 1 Grand Valley State (Mich.) University won the national title with 50 points.
On the 5.78K course, which was modified due to inclement weather on the grounds, senior Chloe Boutelle (Saratoga Springs, N.Y./Saratoga Springs) led the squad by placing 127th out of 249 runners in 23:11.5, improving from 151st place following the opening 1.8K. She was fourth among 16 NE-10 competitors, and ninth out of the 24 student-athletes hailing from the East Region. While the team had never before competed at an NCAA Championship, Boutelle made her second appearance after becoming the first Purple Knight woman to ever qualify last fall, running at a meet held in Spokane, Wash.
Senior Lindy Heffernan (Sutton Mills, N.H./Kearsarge Regional) was 176th in 23:40.4, moving up 21 spots from the 1.8K checkpoint, classmate Colleen Gilliatt (Grantham, N.H./Lebanon) placed 209th at 24:21.0, and senior Allie Gratton (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) nabbed 236th in 25:36.7. Rounding out the Purple Knights' scorers was sophomore Molly Roush (Rouses Point, N.Y./Northeastern Clinton Central School), narrowly trailing Gratton by placing 237th with a time of 25:38.9. Junior Elizabeth Cubberley (Acworth, N.H./Fall Mountain Regional) earned a 239th-place showing in 25:47.3, and classmate Brianna McKinley (Moultonborough, N.H./Moultonborough Academy) was 249th at 27:43.5.
"I'm so proud of them," said ninth-year head coach Molly Peters. "They toughed it out in not the most ideal of conditions today. It was a culmination of four years for the seniors, it wasn't just this year. I'm so proud of the whole team, and how they did. It was so much more fun taking the team this year as opposed to just bringing Chloe last year. We've had such a good time and made good memories this week. With the festival going on, there were so many more teams, and it was so much fun. It was nice to have other sports here."
Under Peters, the Purple Knights qualified for the NCAA Championship by placing third at the NCAA East Regional Championship on Nov. 22. Saint Michael's concluded a fall during which it not only had its best showing ever at Regionals, but also placed second at the NE-10 Championship for the second consecutive season, the greatest success it had in consecutive seasons since winning the 1985 and 1986 Mideast Collegiate Conference (MECC) Championships. The seniors also contributed to a third-place NE-10 showing as rookies in 2011.
The most decorated runner in Saint Michael's history, Boutelle concluded her career with two NCAA Championship appearances and a USTFCCCA All-Region nod while becoming the second woman in school annals to claim all-conference finishes each of her four years, and the first since Saint Michael's Athletic Hall of Fame member Kerri D'Arrigo '89 in the late 1980s. Gilliatt and Heffernan joined Boutelle as all-region this fall and both had two all-league showings during their careers, while Gratton claimed her initial NE-10 All-Conference finish as a senior.
"Today was just a culmination of four years of hard work and friendship combined, it was pretty awesome to see," said Gilliatt, who joins Boutelle, Gratton and Heffernan as being a team captain. "A neat part about the festival was meeting some of the other athletes and seeing such impressive performances. You share in their happiness and excitement for winning, even if it wasn't you. Representing Saint Michael's was so special, we're really proud to wear purple. We wore it all week long, and we hope we wore it well. It's a great institution, and we were also representing all of our teammates back home who worked so hard to get us here."