At the end of an historic week, marked by the results of the presidential election on Tuesday night, Penn cross country added a little history of their own, with the women’s team earning the program’s first ever selection to the NCAA Championships by placing third at the Mid-Atlantic Regionals on Friday.
“It is very exciting,” coach Steve Dolan said after learning that the women’s season would continue for one more week. “It has really been a fun journey to watch the team grow over these past four years.”
The announcement was made on Saturday when the official field of 31 teams was released by the NCAA. 18 received automatic bids by finishing top-two in the team-standings while 13 teams, including Penn, were chosen as at-large selections.
The bid caps off an impressive season for the Quakers. The women have had eight individuals qualify for the season-ending meet since its conception in 1981, but this marks the first time Penn will compete as a full team. Seniors Ashley Montgomery and Cleo Whiting are two of those eight individuals who have already represented Penn at the national championship, competing in 2015 and 2013, respectively.
“The women ran the same race we have been running all season,” Dolan said. “They have been incredibly consistent in terms of everyone playing their role.”
Montgomery led the way for the Red and Blue as usual, finishing the 6K course in sixth with a time of 20:32. Cleo and Clarissa Whiting, along with freshman Erin Feeney and junior Abby Hong joined Montgomery as the top-five runners for Penn.
“Everybody did their job,” Dolan said. “It was a great team effort.”
On the men’s side, senior Nick Tuck continued his solid season, finishing the 10K course in 30:57 to place sixth in the individual standings and earn a bid as an individual in the NCAA Championships to represent the men’s side of the team.
Brendan Shearn, Kevin Monogue, Chris Hatler, and Ross Wilson rounded out the top-five scorers for the Quakers, as the team placed fourth, going 6-10-28-29-38 for 111 points and a spread of just 39 seconds.
“It has been amazing what the three seniors [Nick Tuck, Brendan Shearn, and Chris Hatler] have done for the program over the past years,” Dolan said. “A lot of history has been made by that group — running in the NCAAs last year and winning Heps for the first time in 43 years.”
Dolan also credits the women’s recent success to the experienced seniors on the team.
“The three seniors [Ashley Montgomery, Cleo and Clarissa Whiting] that have been leading all year led us again on Friday,” Dolan said. “It has been truly amazing watching them lead this team over the past four years.”
Dolan, with the help of the senior leadership and former Olympian Juli Benson, who is in her first year as the assistant cross country coach, has taken the women’s team from the bottom of the Ivy League to the NCAA championships.
“Juli has done a really great job as a new member of our staff this year,” Dolan said. “Her leadership has been vital to the women’s success this year.”
The NCAA Championships is set to take place next Saturday in Terre Haute, Indiana at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. Heading into the meet, the Quakers rank No. 3 In the region and No. 24 nationally.
“The seniors have been a big part of the success over this year, and success breeds success,” Dolan said. “I think we have a culture of people that are dreaming about chasing their ability to be great, and I think that will continue next Saturday.”