Following the outstanding team performances at the CAC Championships, both the men and women of CNU were ranked 3rd among the South/Southeast Region. With two automatic berths on the line at the Regional Championships, both squads arrived in Rome, Georgia believing they could be the first team qualifiers for CNU since the men of 1994. After two strong races and a lot of post-race drama, the women had earned another week for their season.
The men raced first and found the course on Berry College's campus to have a few challenges. A quick narrowing and uneven footing in the first mile squeezed the field and made re-positioning difficult. The Captains found themselves further back than hoped and started the work of moving forward through the middle miles as a lead pack separated from the rest of the field. Sophomore JJ LaPointe (Arlington, VA) nearly bridged the gap as he ultimately battled to a 21st place finish for his second All-Region accolades. Billy Rabil (Springfield, VA) closed best on his teammate and finished in 24th followed 11 seconds later by freshman teammate Grayson Reid (Glen Allen, VA), each earning their first All-Region honors. Jeff Dover (Moyock, NC) (43rd) and Daniel Richard (Manassas, VA) (46th) finished up the scoring for the Captains. Daniel Read (Virginia Beach, VA) (57th) and Brad Turner (Williamsburg, VA) (60th) rounded out the squad. Their 165 points left them 4th behind dominating team runs from Emory (62pts) and Bridgewater (65pts) plus a Centre squad just out of reach at 110pts. The Captains and the next three teams behind them were separated by just 12 points.
The women faced similar early challenges to the men and, like their teammates, showed determination rather than panic as they moved themselves into contention. Also like the men, every passed runner heading in to the finish line would be crucial. Hannah Bullen (Henrico, VA) led the Captains through the crowd in the middle of the race with Lydia Cromwell (Round Hill, VA) staying close behind until moving by her in the final stretch. Both passed several runners in the final kilometer. Senior Julie Machamer (Norfolk, VA) made a steady march forward while sophomores Emmie Schmitt (Spotsylvania, VA), Logan Harrington (Montpelier, VA), and Briana Stewart (Oak Hill, VA) raced with surges to keep climbing forward through the field. As did their teammates ahead of them, all four kicked past several competitors in the final meters of the race. Schmitt, Machamer, and Harrington all finished before Centre's #4. Stewart rolled by their #5 and kept going.
After mid-race estimates had the Captains about 30 points behind Centre College, at the finish line it was too close to call. When the last runner crossed the finish line and the timing crew broadcast the final results: Emory - Christopher Newport - Centre... Amid the celebrations a closer look: Emory 62 - Christopher Newport 125 - Centre 125...
Cross Country typically uses one of two tie-breakers: 6th place finisher (advantage CNU 40-67) or head-to-head finishes for the scoring five (advantage Centre 3-2). The NCAA uses the latter and the Captains quieted. Chip timing was used for the race with tags on the competitors' shoes and any close finishes by time would be reviewed with finish line video. Cromwell's time was 0.02 behind a competitor from Washington & Lee but upon review it was determined Cromwell was actually across the line first. Emory 62 - Christopher Newport 124 - Centre 125.
For an additional burst of drama, the initial reporting of the updated scores did not count the teams' displacing finishers and showed Centre ahead of CNU. When all of the dust finally settled, the Captains were indeed heading to Mason, OH for the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.
This is the first women's team to qualify for the National Championship and 8 total All-Region finishers is also a high-water mark for CNU.