INDIANAPOLIS -- Bates women's cross country earned the sixth team invitation to the NCAA Division III Championships in program history on Sunday, and will compete for the national championship this Saturday in Louisville, Ky. It will be the third time in four years the Bobcats have received an at-large invitation to nationals.
For the second straight year, and for the third time ever, Bates' women's and men's teams both received at-large invitations.
Ranked 18th in Division III as of two weeks ago, Bates received one of 16 at-large team invitations after placing fourth out of 54 teams at yesterday's NCAA New England Regional Championships at Bowdoin. Joining the Bobcats from the loaded New England region are No. 4 Williams, No. 3 MIT, No. 9 Tufts, No. 22 Middlebury and Wesleyan.
Bates previously ran as a team at NCAAs in 1995 (placing 18th out of 21 teams), 1997 (15th/21), 2012 (19th/32), 2016 (19th/32) and 2018 (17th/32).
The invitation to NCAAs fulfills the team's goal at the outset of the season. Along the way, the Bobcats won the Maine State Meet, finished second out of 32 teams at the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble, and placed third out of 11 teams at the NESCAC Championships.
Bates' success this season comes with some measure of surprise, after the Bobcats graduated their their top two runners, and four of their top seven, from last year's squad.
First-year Jillian Richardson (Auburn, Maine) and senior captain Olivia LaMarche (Lynnfield, Mass.), who have both won All-New England and All-NESCAC honors, have led the Bobcats in each race this season, and they will be joined on the trip by junior Abby Hamilton (Yarmouth, Maine), sophomore Tara Ellard (Brewster, Mass.), first-year Jordan Wilson (Medfield, Mass.), first-year Lily Harding (Kenfield, Calif.), junior Vanessa Paolella (Dingmans Ferry, Pa.). Sophomore Elise Lambert (Amherst, N.H.) will serve as the team's alternate on the trip. LaMarche will race in her third career NCAA Championship, while Hamilton and Ellard will both race in their second straight.
The NCAA Division III Championships will be run at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, which was also the site of the 2016 national meet. The men's race begins at 10:45am, followed by the women at 11:45.