Women's cross country takes fifth at NCAA Regionals, eyes team bid to nationals

Olivia LaMarche placed 33rd out of 406 individuals, joining teammates Jessica Wilson and Katherine Cook as All-New England selections and helping the Bobcats place fifth out of 59 teams at NCAA Regionals on Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy of Westfield State)

WESTFIELD, Mass. -- The No. 8 nationally ranked Bates women's cross country team put itself into excellent position for a team bid to next week's NCAA Championship meet on Saturday, placing fifth out of 59 teams at the NCAA New England Regional Championships.

While only the top two teams in each NCAA Regional championship race automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, the Bobcats put themselves into excellent position for an at-large invitation. Six teams from the New England region received team bids to NCAAs in 2015. This year the top five teams at New Englands are all ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation.

No. 2 MIT won the team scoring with 68 points, followed by No. 5 Williams (71), No. 6 Tufts (77), No. 10 Middlebury (149) and No. 8 Bates (167). No. 31 Brandeis (189) upset No. 19 Amherst (195) to grab sixth place.

Bates' finish is the program's best since finishing fourth in 2012, the last year the Bobcats competed at NCAAs as a team. The Bobcats placed 12th at the meet a year ago.

Senior captain Jessica Wilson (Cumberland, Maine), junior Katherine Cook (South Burlington, Vt.) and first-year Olivia LaMarche (Lynnfield, Mass.) all placed inside the top 35 individuals to win All-New England honors, a first for all three runners. 

Wilson placed 19th out of 406 individuals, a big leap up from her 100th-place finish in 2015. She completed the 6-kilometer course at Stanley Park in 21:54.77. Cook was right behind in 20th place (21:57.14), up from 58th place a year ago. LaMarche was Bates' breakthrough performer, taking 33rd place in 22:13.12.

Sophomore Katie Barker (Burlington, Vt.), who was not among Bates' top seven runners a year ago, placed 46th overall in 22:24.90; senior captain Molly Chisholm (Wayland, Mass.) took 49th place in 22:28.01, up from 62nd place last year, to round out Bates' team scoring.

Junior Mary Szatkowski (Buxton, Maine) and sophomore Sarah Rothmann (Andover, Mass.) were Bates' displacers in 75th (23:02.78) and 85th (23:11.96) places, respectively.

Official entries to next week's NCAA Championship meet will be announced on Sunday. The meet takes place at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, Nov. 19.