LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The five scoring runners for Villanova were separated by just 30 seconds at the finish line in another strong team effort and the Wildcats tallied a 12th place team finish at the NCAA Championships on Saturday morning. It is the best team finish since 2011 for Villanova, which was making its 29th appearance all-time at the national meet.
Junior Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) led the Wildcats with a 65th place overall finish. She covered the 6,000 meter course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in 20:26.48 and was the team’s leading finisher for the fourth straight race. More than 60 runners crossed the finish line within 30 seconds of Burda’s time, as a crowded field of more than 250 runners stayed tightly packed throughout.
Villanova finished with 346 points in the team standings and came in just 28 points outside of a top-10 finish out of the 31 teams that earned berths to the NCAA meet. The national championships capped off what has been a strong season for the Wildcats, who won the BIG EAST title for a record 15th time last month and then came in second at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional to earn an automatic berth to nationals. Villanova is tied for the fifth-most appearances by a women’s team all-time at the championships.
Senior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) and junior Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) were the second and third Wildcats across the finish line. Cleirigh Buttner posted a time of 20:37.31 and Hutchinson was close behind her in 20:37.75. Junior Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa) placed 97th in 20:40.05 and freshman Lauren Ryan (South Yarra, Australia) was the fifth scoring runner in 127th place (20:56.74). The other two finishers for Villanova were senior Katie Fisher (Uxbridge, Ont.) with a time of 21:01.05 and freshman Rachel McArthur (Bristow, Va.) with a time of 21:39.63.
This is the 18th time in 29 appearances at the NCAA Championships that the Wildcats have finished 12th or better in the team race. There were two BIG EAST teams in Saturday’s race, with Villanova coming in ahead of 16th place Providence (400 team points). In addition, the Wildcats finish was one place ahead of where they were ranked entering the meet.
COMPLETE VILLANOVA RESULTS
Bella Burda 65th of 255 20:26.48 Siofra Cleirigh Buttner 88th 20:37.31 Nicole Hutchinson 90th 20:37.75 Kaley Ciluffo 97th 20:40.05 Lauren Ryan 127th 20:56.74 Katie Fisher 138th 21:01.05 Rachel McArthur 204th 21:39.63