Women’s cross country goes for gold

James Salazar 

Staff Writer 

Senior McKenzie Yanek finished 78th in the NCAA National Championship. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS M. LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

The USF women’s cross country team passed the finish line of their abbreviated season with an NCAA National Championship appearance, which is the sixth in the team’s history and the second in four years. The team competed March 15 at the Oklahoma State Cross Country Course, earning a 30th place finish out of the 31-team field with a total of 688 points.

The Dons entered their most important race of the season tied for No. 27 in the nation with the West Virginia University Mountaineers.   

Senior McKenzie Yanek was the Dons’ top finisher, placing 78th overall among the 253 runners in the 6-kilometer race with a time of 21 minutes, 22.2 seconds. Yanek made great strides in the second half of the race, gaining more than 39 spots in the final three kilometers to secure her top 100 spot. 

Sophomore Eve Jensen, the Dons’ second finisher, made up distance in the final kilometer, moving up 11 spots to place 124th with a time of 21 minutes, 41.9 seconds. Junior Zoe Wassell followed behind Jensen, finishing as USF’s third-fastest runner with a time of 22 minutes, 5.4 seconds, which placed her 172nd in the field. The fourth runner, sophomore Baneet Bains, made up ground in the final two kilometers of the race. Her performance pushed her up 25 spots, and she finished the race 224th in 22 minutes, 47 seconds. Sophomore Kalli Caldwell rounded out the Dons’ top-five finishers, placing 238th with a time of 23 minutes, 4 seconds. 

Elsewhere on the track, sophomore Abby Pradere placed 246th with a time of 23 minutes, 25.5 seconds, and graduate student Anna Tait ended the event in 251st place with a time of 25 minutes, 5.9 seconds. 

In a statement on the Dons Athletics’ official website, interim head track and field and cross country coach Tim Riley said, “This is a young team and one thing we took from this race is that we want to get back here as soon as possible!”

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