On Saturday, sophomore Lydia Olivere won her first individual conference title as she finished in first place at the Big East Cross Country Championships in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Olivere’s time of 21:29.5 paced the field of 91 runners at the Wayne E. Dannehl Cross Country Course. Senior Ann Campbell finished in third place with a time of 21:55.5, and freshman Maggie Smith placed in 8th with a time of 22:12.5. Freshmen Bryne Sumner and Nikki Merrill, the fourth and fifth scoring runners, finished 21st and 28th respectively, giving the Wildcats a second place team finish.
The team race was a close one, with Butler edging out Villanova for the title by a score of 52 to 61. Georgetown finished in third place with 65 points. For the first time since the 2016 season, the ‘Cats did not bring home the Big East team title.
Olivere, who finished in seventh in the Big East race last season, had a strong second half to secure the individual title.
“I was happy with how calm I was at the beginning, and that really helped me for the second part of the race,” she told the Big East Digital Network. “The last 2k is really where the race is.”
After trailing Xavier runner Anna Kostarellis for the first half of the race, Olivere took the lead at 18 minutes. She never relinquished that spot, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Kostarellis. This was an important race for Olivere, who dealt with an illness at the beginning of this week.
“Even earlier this week, her workouts were not an indication of what today would be like,” head coach Gina Procaccio said of Olivere’s race. “It’s nice because it’s all coming together at the right time for Lydia.”
For Olivere, her race went better than she was expecting.
“It’s surreal, I was not expecting this coming in. Last year, I finished in the top 10, so this year I was thinking hopefully in the top 5,” Olivere said.
She joins the field of 17 other women’s runners at Villanova who have earned an individual title. Campbell and Smith also earned first-team Big East honors with their top-10 finishes.
Freshman Anna Helwig and seniors McKenna Keegan and Amari Onque-Shabazz rounded out the rest of the women’s runners, finishing in 31st, 40th and 45th place, respectively.
This was the first race of the season in which Gina Procaccio ran her full squad.
“I think they did great,” Procaccio said of her team’s performance. “I’m happy with the runner-up spot.”
The conditions of the race added another layer of difficulty for the runners. A few inches of snow from Thursday night remained on the course on Saturday. Runners slogged through slush and mud as they completed the 6K.
“It definitely slows the race down,” Procaccio said of the conditions.
But for Olivere, the elements did nothing to derail the team performance.
“We’re a tough team, we got grit, and we knew what the conditions were going to be like,” she said. “But, we can’t control it, so we just have to run the best we can.”
The team has a two week break before the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals at Lehigh University on Nov. 15. To qualify for nationals, it has to place within the top two teams in order to earn a bid to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.