Courtesy of Oregon State Athletics
The Oregon State Beavers Cross Country hit a program-best by finishing 16th in the NCAA National Championship race on March 15.
The Beavers were selected as one of the 31 teams that participated in the competition on the backs of a season that finished with them ranked 23rd in the country. Their 16th place finish was thus a step above their team rankings.
The team’s last race before the NCAA Championship was the PAC-12 Championships, which they also put in a program-best performance at, finishing in fourth place behind three other teams that were ranked in the top 15 in the country. That strong performance in the conference championship event helped them qualify for the NCAA championships, and gave them plenty of momentum heading into it.
This is only the second time that the program, which has only been active since it was reinstated in 2005 after being disbanded decades earlier in 1988, has qualified for the national championship. The last time they did so was in 2008 where they finished in 27th place.
In the championship race, the Beavers accumulated 375 points. The winning team, the second-ranked BYU Cougars, had 96 points.
The Beavers also had impressive individual performances, with redshirt senior Batya Beard and redshirt sophomore Kaylee Mitchell. Both earned All-American honors due to finishing in the top 40 of individual runners in the six-kilometer race out of 256 participants, but Mitchell also finished as a First-Team All-PAC-12 athlete for her individual season.
Mitchell’s performance was the best in program history, finishing 20th overall with a time of 20:38.5. Beard, meanwhile, finished 37th in the race with a time of 20:57.7.
Oregon State’s other five competing athletes in the 6K race were senior Audrey Lookner, sophomore Meagen Lowe, senior Greta Van Calcar, graduate student Alyssa Foote, and sophomore Grace Fetherstonhaugh.
Lookner finished in 111th place with a time of 21:33.9, Lowe had a time of exactly 21 minutes and 50 seconds which was good for 148th in the race, and Van Calcar wasn’t far behind in 153rd place with a time of 21:53.7. Then there was Foote, who finished with a time of 22:08.9 which meant she was the 178th fastest competitor. Fetherstonhaugh finished in 220th after a time of 22:40.5.
Lookner and Fetherstonhaugh were the only Beavers who had also participated in the 2018 National Championships, and both improved their times and finishes from three years ago. Fetherstonhaugh had finished in 244th with a time of 22:48.9 and Lookner had finished in 197th with a time of 21:52.5.
For Fetherstonhaugh, the 2021 cross country race was the second NCAA championship level competition she participated in that week. On March 12, she was in Fayetteville, Arkansas as the lone representative for Oregon State in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 5000-meter race. Fetherstonhaugh became only the third Beaver ever to qualify for this championship after her 16:00.93 race in the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 12.
Unfortunately, her time dropped to 16:22.03 in the championship race, which was good for 14th out of 16 participants. She was, however, one of only five underclassmen in the competition and was the fourth-best out of those.
Cross Country’s season is now done, but the Track and Field team will now transition into the outdoor season, which has already kicked off with four Oregon State athletes finishing in the top five at the Western Oregon Multi in Monmouth, Oregon on March 10. Sophomore Anneke Moersdorf finished first with 4,477 points, freshman Delaney Bahn finished third with 4,375 points, senior Claire Corbitt took fourth with 4,279 and sophomore Maddie McHone placed fifth with 4,107 points.
After that, the Beavers won the OSU PNW Team Clash it hosted on Saturday, March 13. Their score of 262 was enough to best Eastern Washington, Portland State, Seattle, and Western Oregon. Only Eastern Washington came close, with a score of 190.
Look for the track and field team to continue their outdoor season from March 19th to the 20th in Portland, Oregon in the Lewis and Clark event.