Junior Ellie Willging took 10th overall with a school record time of 17:32 and her second straight NAIA All-American honor
Junior Ellie Willging took 10th overall with a school record time of 17:32 and her second straight NAIA All-American honor
Women's Cross Country - Sat, Nov. 19, 2016

Elsah, Ill. – Junior Ellie Willging (Freeport, Ill./UIC/Freeport) broke her own school record (by 16 seconds) and turned in a lifetime-best 5K (5,000 meters) time of 17:32 en route to finishing 10th overall and claiming NAIA All-American honors Saturday in leading the Saint Xavier University women's cross country team to a 17th place team finish at the 2016 NAIA Cross Country National Championships at the North Farm Course in Elsah, Ill.  The Cougars turned in program-record team time of 1:34.10 (13 seconds faster than previous record) braving a hilly course and strong winds to finish 17th overall in the 36-team national championship field.  Willging, senior Nicole Maier (Burbank, Ill./Olivet Nazarene/Reavis), senior Courtney Correa (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) and junior Sierra Downey (Stickney, Ill./Morton College/Morton West) were also all named 2016 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes for being at least junior academic status with a 3.50 or higher cumulative grade-point average.    

Willging's big finish was the highest individual finish for a Saint Xavier runner at the national meet in women's cross country history and the second straight year she has earned All-American recognition.  Former standout Rachael Dean was the previous highest finisher taking 12th overall in 2011.  Senior Nicole Watkins (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) was the second finisher for SXU Saturday coming across in 106th place in the field of 334 collegiate runners with a time of 18:50.  Downey turned in her first career sub-19 minute time with 18:53 to finish in 112th place.  Maier was the fourth Cougar runner to complete the race taking 154th place with a time of 19:12.  Freshman Grace Maletich (Woodridge, Ill./Downers Grove North) wrapped up the scorers for Saint Xavier with a career-best time of 19:40 for 215th place.  Other finishers for SXU Saturday included sophomore Deandra Stokes (South Holland, Ill./Thornton) in 239th place at 19:49 and Correa in 302nd place at 21:01.  The Cougars were the highest finishing team in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) placing four spots ahead of rival University of St. Francis (Ill.) at 21st place.

"I'm so proud of how hard this team has worked this season," said SXU women's cross country coach Lisa Ebel.  "To have so many lifetime best times on such a tough course and in very windy conditions is very impressive.  This group has been so much fun to coach, because they work well together and support each other.  Today was their best performance of the season and a great ending to a very successful year!"