Junior Athena Welsh wrapped her cross country season, representing Toledo with an 85th-place finish (20:59.1) at the NCAA Championships Nov. 17 in Madison, Wis.
“It was a really great experience,” Welsh said. “I had a lot of fun, and it was really cool to finally get to a national meet and see what it’s all about and kind of see how I stacked up.”Despite the cold and a snow-slicked course, Welsh ran a strong race, landing in the top 100 out of 253 competitors.
“I thought it was a great race,” said Head Coach Linh Nguyen. “When you get into a race like this, everybody’s good. And there are probably 80 to 90 women who could be All-American on any given day. I feel like for Athena to get in there and finish 85th is a pretty good result, especially for a first-time trip.”
Colorado’s Dani Jones won the individual title, stopping the clock at 19:42.8, leading the Colorado team to a championship title with a score of 65.
“I think it was a good way to end the season,” Welsh said. “I think my season overall was really good, so this was probably the best way to end it.”
Welsh’s championship journey to the NCAAs began in August at the Toledo Opener, where she led the pack with a 5K time of 14:21.5. She would continue to reach new heights over the course of the season, picking up individual victories from the Mel Brodt Opener (17:06.1) and All-Ohio Championships (21:01.5), while taking second at the Bradley Pink Classic (20:36.1). Battling in a cold drizzle on a late October day, Welsh took second in the Mid-American Conference Championships (20:37.9), missing an individual title by a heartbreaking three seconds. She bounced back the following week with a time of 20:13.4 at the NCAA Regional meet to reclaim the 17th-place spot she had captured in the year prior.
With the cross country championships concluded, Nguyen has sights sets on the upcoming track and field season.
“For track, we are just going to try to build off of this,” Nguyen said. “And once you go to one national meet, you want to keep going, so the goal is to have really strong seasons following this one and to get some athletes into the national championships.”
Welsh and the Rockets kick off the indoor track and field season at the Grand Valley Holiday Open Friday, Dec. 7, in Allendale, Mich.