South Bend, Ind. – Finishing ahead of three nationally ranked teams, the No. 19 ranked Saint Xavier University women's cross country team proved Saturday that it deserves to be ranked among the NAIA's elite with a first-place finish at the Bethel College Cross Country Invitational at St. Patrick's County Park in South Bend, Ind. SXU senior Rachael Dean (Lindenhurst, Ill./Judson University/Lakes) won the meet by 11 seconds with a time of 18:30.3 over the 5K (5,000 meters) course. The Cougars finished ahead of No. 21 Taylor University (Ind.) in second place, No. 13 Indiana Wesleyan University in third place and No. 16 Aquinas College (Mich.) in fourth place.
Junior Ashley Shares (Palos Park, Ill./Moraine Valley CC/Stagg) placed among the race's top 10 individual finishers Saturday with a time of 19:10.7. Sophomore Jordan Wallace (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) recorded a season personal-best time of 19:17 to cross the finish line in 11thplace out of the 143 competitors. Freshman Elise Prieto (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) and freshman Kayla Droessler (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) wrapped up the team scoring for SXU with times of 19:46.9 (23rdplace) and 19:47.8 (24thplace), respectively. Junior Jackie Ott (Island Lake, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) and sophomore Krista Olenek (Algonquin, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) also ran well for the Cougars with Ott finishing at 35thoverall at 20:17 and Olenek coming in at 20:56.2 at No. 62.
"I think our team really made a statement with this win against some really tough NAIA competition," said SXU women's cross country coach Lisa Ebel. "We have believed all year that we are more talented than our No. 19 national ranking and with our finish Saturday, we proved that to be the case. We have a big test this weekend when we line up against the NAIA's No. 2 team in Cal. State-San Marcos. Our girls are looking forward to the challenge."
Saint Xavier makes the trip to San Marco, Calif., for the Cougar Challenge on Saturday, October 15. The women's race is scheduled for an 8 a.m. (pacific) start.