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CMS with the NCAA runner-up trophy (Larry Radloff/D3photography)
CMS with the NCAA runner-up trophy (Larry Radloff/D3photography)

CMS Women's Cross Country Has Highest-Ever NCAA Finish, Earns Runner-Up By Just Two Points

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's cross country team earned the highest finish in program history, coming in second place to Johns Hopkins by just two points, led by four All-Americans who finished in the top 26, on Saturday afternoon at EP "Tom" Sawyer State Park.

Meredith Bloss led CMS with a 13th-place finish in 21:17.4 to earn All-America honors (given to the top 40 finishers), followed by Natalie Bitetti in 16th place in 21:24.5. Riley Harmon added a 19th place finish in 21:32.9 to earn a spot in the top 20 (up from 36th as a sophomore in 2019), and Emily Clarke earned All-America honors as well in 26th place in 21:38.0, easily coming in under the top-40 cutoff after a breakthrough senior season which saw her emerge as a consistent top-four runner for the Athenas.

Johns Hopkins finished with 130 points to barely defend its 2019 national championship, with CMS close behind with 132. SUNY Geneseo finished third with 168, followed by Wartburg with 179 and WashU with 200.

CMS held the early lead after the first split, and then Johns Hopkins surged into first while it appeared the Athenas were fading, as SUNY Geneseo moved into second at the midway point of the race.

However, CMS finished exceptionally strong, closing the gap on Johns Hopkins over the final 1000 meters and nearly coming away with the national title. Bloss held steady at No. 13 down the stretch, while Bitetti, Harmon, Clarke and Gitlin all passed runners, while Johns Hopkins faded to make the final gap in the standings a matter of fractions of seconds over a 20-plus minute race.  

Sophie Gitlin was the fifth CMS scorer, coming in 79th place in 22:18.1, representing a huge jump from her sophomore season, when she was 136th in 23:06.1 on the same course – an improvement of almost 50 seconds that nearly led the Athenas into first place, but which led CMS to its highest-ever finish. Angie Gushue was 131st and Laura Zimmer 137th in their first career NCAA races.  

Kassie Rosenbaum was the individual champion for Loras in 20:11.1, followed by Ari Marks of Wellesley and Danielle Page of Tufts.

Finishing as runner-up surpassed the third-place finish of the 2012 team as the highest finish in program history for the Athenas, who were making their 13th straight team appearance at nationals. The second-place finish also resulted in the Athenas earning one of the NCAA trophies presented to the top four finishers for the first time since 2012, as well as its first appearance in the top 10 since that season. Bloss and Bitetti will be among the key returners next season to try to lead CMS back into the national title hunt in 2022.