Sophomore Anna Wilgenbusch blazed the trails yet again at the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional Championship, hosted by Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn, on Saturday.
Her time of 21:29 in the 6K secured her ninth win this season. Smashing her own school record by 24 seconds and maintaining a swift 5:45 mile pace, she dominated the competition after the 2000 meter mark and edged second place Sara Stephenson from Washington & Lee University by eight seconds.
“Lining up with 238 other runners on the starting line and waiting for the gun to go off was something unreal,” said Wilgenbusch. “I fed off the energy of the other competitors and spectators, and just trusted my strength and went for it. After mile one I knew that I could win it.”
Coach Nick Schneigert said, “We knew coming in that there was going to be some athletes that were going to challenge Anna. Our game plan was for her to stay in the top 3 to 5 athletes … the first mile then do a 20 meter surge. She stuck with the plan, staying with the lead pack and after her surge her opponents dropped. She was solo from Mile 1 until the finish. We played a game of chess with our opponents and we won.”
Wilgenbusch’s win not only crushed her own personal and school records for the race distance, but also made history for the cross country program and the Crusader athletics program as a whole. For Crusader cross country, she is the first to qualify nationally and to win the regional championship.
She will be the first from UD to compete in an NCAA national championship, though others qualified in the past to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in the 1980s. With nine career wins, all in the 2019 season, Wilgenbusch stands tied with Hall of Fame inductee Elena Yates, class of 2011.
With this top-seven finish, Wilgenbusch qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championship, set to be held in Louisville, Ky, this weekend.