Women's cross country makes bid for NCAAs with fourth place at New Englands

Abby Hamilton and the No. 18 nationally ranked Bates women's cross country team placed fourth out of 54 teams at the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championships on Nov. 16, 2019 at Bowdoin College. (Jay Burns/Bates College)

BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The No. 18 nationally ranked Bates women's cross country team appears to have secured an invitation to the NCAA Division III Championships for a second straight year, after the Bobcats tied for their best team finish since 1997 at NCAA Division III New England Regional Championships on Saturday, finishing fourth among 54 teams.

With all five of their scorers finishing inside the top 60, the Bobcats scored 176 points, trailing only No. 4 Williams (64), No. 3 MIT (84) and No. 9 Tufts (156). No. 22 Middlebury (209) took fifth place behind Bates, with Wesleyan sixth (263).

"If we have the chance to go to nationals, which I think we will, then we're going to be ready," said head coach Jay Hartshorn. "In every race this season, we've learned something, so I think we'll be ready for that challenge and that field."

First-year Jillian Richardson (Auburn, Maine) and senior Olivia LaMarche (Lynnfield, Mass.) finished 15th and 18th, respectively, out of 380 competitors, winning NCAA All-Region honors with their top-35 overall finishes. It will be LaMarche's second All-New England honor, after she placed 33rd in 2016.

Richardson covered the 8-kilometer course at Bowdoin College in 21:59.0, followed closely by LaMarche (22:01.2). "Olivia and Jill were so solid, like they have been all year," said Hartshorn.

Junior Abby Hamilton (Yarmouth, Maine) finished 40th overall (22:36.9), followed in 44th place by sophomore Tara Ellard (Brewster, Mass.) in 22:40.6 and first-year Jordan Wilson (Medfield, Mass.) in 59th place (22:54.7) to complete Bates' team scoring. "Jordan Wilson came up big. She had a great finish today," said Hartshorn.

Bates' scoring displacers were first-year Lily Harding (Kenfield, Calif.) in 78th place (23:07.9) and junior Vanessa Paolella (Dingmans Ferry, Pa.) in 83rd place (23:10.1).

"We got [started] out really well, then just kind of kept competing throughout the race, and our finish was great," said Hartshorn. "I think our last 600 [meters} was the best it's been all year."

Bates made its fifth-ever trip to nationals one year ago after placing sixth at NCAA Regionals. While only the top two teams in each of the eight regions are guaranteed team bids to nationals, Bates seems well-positioned to make a sixth trip, as does the Bates men's team, which finished fifth in Saturday's first race.

The 2019 NCAA Division III Championships will take place at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., next Saturday. The men's race begins at 10:45am Eastern Time, followed by the women's race at 11:45am.