Cal U advances to NCAA Nationals as a team for the third time in four years.
Senior Alicia Belko claimed the individual title at the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships on Saturday
morning and the California University of Pennsylvania women's cross country team placed
second overall to advance to the NCAA National Championships.
Belko became the program's second regional champion in as many years, as Julie Friend accomplished the feat for the first time in school history in 2017. Belko captured the individual victory by nearly forty seconds after completing the six-kilometer course in a time of 23 minutes, 25 seconds. The New Jersey native has posted four individual titles, plus a runner-up and third-place finish, in six races this fall with the Vulcans. While competing at NCAA Division III Stockton (N.J.) last season, Belko finished third overall at the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships before becoming the program's first-ever NCAA All-American.
The Vulcans earned a team qualifier for the NCAA National Championships by finishing second at the 23-team regional race on Saturday. Cal U recorded a program-best 87 points while competing at the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park, which will also be the site of the NCAA National Championships. The Vulcans will be making their third-ever team appearance at the NCAA Division II National Championships next month with all appearances coming in the last four years. Cal U previously tallied its lowest point total at the regional event in 2015 with 112 points when it won the first regional title in program history.
Senior Alyson Pierce placed second overall in a field of 150-plus runners on Saturday. She crossed the finish line in 24:03 to edge Edinboro sophomore Hope Pietrocarlo for second place by three seconds. Pierce competed at the regional race for the fourth time in her career and posted a consecutive top-15 finish, as she placed 12th overall at the meet last year.
Belko and Pierce both earned all-region status, as the honor is awarded to the top-25 finishers at the event.
The Vulcans were able to solidify the team qualifier for the NCAA National Championships due to the performances of freshman Saralynn Vance, junior Shae Grinnell and sophomore Megan Bateman . The trio all completed the course within 16 seconds of each other and finished between Nos. 26-31 overall.
Vance and Grinnell recorded back-to-back finishes while in Pittsburgh with Vance placing 26th overall with a time of 25:50 and Grinnell recorded a time of 25:58. A product of nearby Brownsville, Vance posted the fourth-best time among all freshmen at the event and registered the highest regional finish by a Cal U freshman since Erin Kling in 2009. Bateman rounded out the team scorers at the event with a time of 26:06 to finish in 31st place.
Senior Jaclyn Reinbold finished 43rd overall at the regional championships with a time of 26:32 and sophomore Shaye Beckett posted a time of 27:12 to place 65th overall.
The Vulcans will compete at the NCAA National Championships on Dec. 1 with the event again being hosted at the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park in Pittsburgh. The event will be part of the NCAA National Championship Festival hosted by Pittsburgh with six NCAA Division II championships being held from Nov. 27-Dec. 1.