Coming off of an injury-plagued season last year, the Women’s Cross Country team is looking to bounce back with a year of full health going forward. Despite all of the injuries last season, the team does have six of their top seven runners returning.
“I see it as if we’re injury free and continue to work hard, that this season could really end well for us; we’re aiming for nationals,” said senior Hannah Benoit Bucher. “As a senior, this season I am really focusing on taking advantage of every race, every opportunity that’s given to me, and just enjoying it all and having fun with it.”
They are already off to a great start so far. The team won their first event of the season: the Biola Invitational. They won the tiebreaker with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps with 40 points, because PLNU’s top three runners finished above all three of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ top three runners. Benoit Bucher won the individual race with a time of 18.10.58. “I would say it was a confidence booster in what we could do, especially since not everyone we wanted to race was able to race [due to injury],” said sophomore Madi Bucci when speaking on their success at the Biola Invitational. “So just being able to go out and trust our training and see that result was encouraging.” This team’s win at the Biola Invitational was PLNU’s second team title in the last three seasons, the previous one coming in 2016 at the Triton Classic.
This weekend, the team had a meet at Mission Bay Park for the USD Invitational, a rare close-to-home meet. PLNU finished third with 54 points, behind USD who was first and Simon Fraser who was second. A lot of the runners ran well in this event, with Benoit Bucher finishing in second place individually with a time of 22.26. Junior Zita Molnar, senior Brianna Bartello, freshmen Emily Donahue, and Bucci all finished within the top 25 individually in this event.
Benoit Bucher also won PacWest Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week for her performance at the Biola Invitational. As a senior and one of the leaders on the team, she has her sights on great things for this coming season. “This team has just been an awesome environment, just a really encouraging environment, and these girls have grown to become my sisters… I’m excited for this coming year, just to really soak up this last bit of time with the girls,” she said. “On an athletic level, I would love to end my senior year going to nationals with all my teammates.”
Nationals take place in Philadelphia this season, and although the team has started off on a positive note (and not with as many injuries to note), there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve their goals. The hope is that with their early on success thus far at the Biola Invitational and the USD Invitational, that these events will lead them to greater achievements as the season goes on. Their next meet is the Charles Bowles Invite on Sept. 29 in Salem, Oregon.