It's official: women's cross country NCAA-bound









INDIANAPOLIS -- The Bates women's cross country team is going to the NCAA Division III Championships for the third time in program history, and the first since 1997, as announced on Sunday by the NCAA Selection Committee.

Bates' best season in over a decade reached a high point in Saturday's NCAA New England Regionals at Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass., where the No. 25 nationally ranked Bobcats finished in fourth place among 51 teams.

Saturday’s NCAA championship race, hosted by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind., begins at 11am, followed by the women's race at 12pm (Webcast / Timing Site / Host Site). The Bates men's team also earned an at-large bid and will make its second straight team appearance at NCAAs. It will be the first time both Bates teams will compete as a full squad at NCAAs in the same year.

In order to be eligible to participate in the championships, teams and individuals must qualify in their respective NCAA regions. Thirty-two teams were selected to participate in each championship. The top two, seven-person teams automatically qualified from each of the eight regions, for a total of 16 teams. Sixteen additional teams were selected at-large. Fifty-six individuals, the first seven athletes from each region who are not a part of a qualifying team, were selected to participate in each championship.

At New Englands, Bates scored 145 points, finishing behind only No. 1 MIT (58), No. 3 Williams (75) and No. 5 Middlebury (89), and surprisingly well ahead of fifth-place and 17th-ranked Amherst (190) and sixth-place and 20th-ranked Tufts (210).

Bates’ second through sixth runners were all better than their counterparts on all but the top three teams, underscoring Bates’ powerhouse performance. Even substituting Bates' sixth runner in place of its top finisher would have kept the Bobcats ahead of Amherst for fourth place.

Junior Gabby Naranja (Fort Kent, Maine) led the Bobcats, finishing in 14th place among 366 runners overall. Naranja covered the 6-kilometer course in 22:05.23, and was the first of four Bobcats who earned All-New England honors by placing among the top 35 individuals.

Sophomore Elena Jay (West Hartford, Conn.) was the breakthrough performer of the day, finishing 25th overall in 22:18.03. Senior captain Alicia Fannon (Haverhill, Mass.) claimed All-New England laurels for the second straight year, placing 32nd in 22:23.97, and first-year Hannah Zeltner (Bedford, N.H.) came in 35th in 22:29.23, the fifth-fastest rookie in the field.

Junior Mira Carey-Hatch (Laconia, N.H.) finished in 39th place with her time of 22:36.13, a remarkably high placement for Bates’ fifth and final point-scorer. Junior captain Amanda Solch (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) was 54th in 22:51.50, and senior captain Lindsay Cullen (Newburyport, Mass.) was the team’s second displacer, in 90th overall at 23:26.50. Those seven runners will all compete at NCAAs; the team's alternate is first-year Isabelle Unger (Charlotte, Vt.).

Bates' previous two trips to NCAAs resulted in a 18th-place finish in 1995 and a 15th-place showing in 1997.