CMS Women's Cross Country Heads to Nationals Saturday, After Runner-Up Finish in 2021
CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's cross country team heads to Lansing, Michigan on Saturday for the NCAA Division III Championships, hoping to compete for the first national title in program history.
In order to hold the national championship trophy, CMS has to be the tiniest margin better than it was a year ago. The Athenas earned the runner-up trophy behind Johns Hopkins, finishing just two points behind (130 points to 132 points) in one of the closest team battles in NCAA history (only a one-point win by WashU over Johns Hopkins in 2018 was closer). The margin of victory for the Blue Jays came down to a matter of less than a second in individual races.
CMS had four All-Americans last year, but two of them graduated. In fact, All-Americans Riley Harmon and Emily Clarke, and fellow senior Sophie Gitlin was the fifth scorer for the Athenas, meaning there was no guarantee that CMS would be a contender this year.
Instead, the Athenas head into nationals ranked No. 5 in the nation, in a very close vote with Wartburg first with 316 points, SUNY Geneseo second with 314 points, and then Johns Hopkins (295), Chicago (292) and CMS (283) in the 3-5 spots.
Natalie Bitetti has helped keep CMS near the top of the rankings with an impressive junior campaign, which saw her win the SCIAC Athlete of the Year and the NCAA West Region Athlete of the Year, after finishing first in both the conference and the regional championships. She hopes to compete for an individual title as well, although defending national champion Kassie Rosenbum of Loras is back after winning by 17 seconds last year and will be tough to knock from the throne.
Bitetti has been beaten by only one Division III runner this year, Annika Urban of Emory, who won the Paul Short Run while Bitetti came in third out of 395 runners (a Division I runner placed second). Bitetti has finished first four times (Redlands Invitational, Pomona-Pitzer Invitational, SCIAC Championships, NCAA West Region Championships), and was the highest Division III runner at the UC Riverside Invitational.
Meredith Bloss was also an All-American last year when she came in 13th at nationals, and is coming off a fourth-place finish at the regionals last weekend, hoping to make her way back on to the All-America podium this year. Anika Kimme had a big step forward for CMS this year, and finished sixth at regionals, earning first-team All-SCIAC and All-West Region distinction. Kimme was not a part of the Athenas top seven last year that ran in the postseason, but this year, she has been a consistent No. 3 runner for CMS and has often run close with Bloss to give the Athenas another consistent high scorer.
Angie Gushue and Laura Zimmer are both returning from last year's NCAA squad for CMS and have experience running in big events. Two first-years have emerged in the Athenas' top seven as well, with Elle Marsyla consistent scoring for CMS this year, including at SCIACs when she was a first-team All-SCIAC selection. Riley Capuano earned second-team All-SCIAC honors and has the potential to be one of the scorers for CMS at nationals as well.
To follow along with tomorrow's races, which see the Athenas start at 11 a.m. in Michigan (8 a.m. Pacific time) and the Stags following at 12 p.m., visit the following links: