National meet concludes, Neal earns All-American, Beard places 77th

Alex Jensen, Sports Editor

The Wildcats finished in the top 100 at the NCAA National Competition. Senior Kaelia Neal and Junior Courtney Beard gave up the beginning of their Thanksgiving break to fly to Illinois to compete against 279 of the best cross-country runners in the nation.

Neal’s outstanding 39th place finish earned her All-American Honors. After running the bulk of the race around 50th place she knew it came down to her kick to dip under the top 40, which earned All-American. Neal finished with a time of 21:37.60.

The 39th place finish marked big improvement from Neal’s first national appearance, her sophomore year, where she placed 77th.

Beard finished in 71st with a time of 22:01.10, which was a personal best. It was her first national appearance.

“I felt I ran a great race considering the course and weather conditions. Even though I ran a PR [personal best], I did not place where I wanted to,” Beard said.

The course had an uphill start, which made the 6k race an even greater challenge. And the temperatures were in the high 40s with wind gusting over 30 miles per hour at race time.

Head Coach Mike Blackmore said that Neal and Beard ran the second half the race faster than the first, which is rare. And that it shows how much stronger the racers continue to get as the season progresses.

The overall women’s winner was Khia Kurtenbach from the University of Chicago, finishing in 20:39.20.

“I know the entire athletic department is proud of our athletes’ accomplishments, and I am really proud to be part of Linfield athletics,” Blackmore said.

The NCAA National Competition marked the end of the cross-country season for the Wildcats.

“I now know what needs to be done next year to accomplish my goals at nationals,” Beard said.