Nov. 23 dawned cool and misty at the NCAA Division III Cross Country national championships in Louisville, KY. Sophomore Anna Wilgenbusch represented UD at the national level for the first time in the history of our athletics department.
Conditions for the race were less than ideal, with temperatures in the upper 30s and light rain making for a remarkably muddy course.
Wilgenbusch said, “The men raced first, so the course was really torn up for the women’s race. At the beginning of the race, there was mud flying through the air, which even splattered across my face. Some runners were just covered in mud when we finished. Racing in mud is difficult because your feet do not have any traction.”
However, these impediments did not dull the overall race enthusiasm. The fans lining the course spurred the competitors on.
Wligenbusch commented that the fans “made up for the terrible racing conditions. They were deafeningly loud at some points on the course, waving huge flags and some even shirtless to display painted stomachs in the freezing temperatures.”
Additionally, the dedication and discipline that brought each individual to Louisville influenced the mindset and atmosphere of the athletes.
“It was so cool to be surrounded by hundreds of athletes who had fought hard to get to that starting line,” Wilgenbusch said, “I ended up laughing with the girls lined up next to me on the starting line about spending so much time one-on-one with our coaches because we had all qualified individually… traveling alone with our coaches. The cross-country culture was unbelievably strong: there were entire men’s teams who had grown Steve Prefontain mustaches.”
Wilgenbusch competed in the 6K against 277 women, the best of Division III. She finished 38th, with a time of 22:10. Parley Hannan from Ithaca College was first, with a time of 20:53. As the top 40 competitors receive the title of All-American, Anna garnered this honor, the first All-American for UD.
Wilgenbusch said, “Although my time wasn’t a personal record, I gave the race my best and I’m so happy to give UD an All-American.”
Additionally, qualifying to Louisville and the exciting All-American title is a strong sign for UD’s cross country program.
Coach Nick Schneigert said, “I think Anna going to the NCAA National Championships and placing NCAA All-American is a step in the right direction for our program. I coached in the Midwest, where the Midwest region has very strong distance programs collegiately. So it was great to see Anna experience and compete against other regions.”
Schneigert has high hopes for the future.
He said, “My goal, within the next several years, is to qualify for the NCAA DIII national championships for cross country and track by developing our current distance athletes and to recruit athletes from strong distance programs … Rome wasn’t built overnight. It will take a few years and we have to network strongly with high school and club coaches. With Anna qualifying and doing well at the NCAA Nats, we have already opened eyes among local high school coaches.”