NEW ORLEANS - Fresh off winning her first career regional title last week, junior Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) was selected as the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Women’s Athlete of the Year for the Mid-Atlantic Region on Wednesday afternoon. Burda and her Villanova teammates are preparing for the NCAA Championships later this week.
The current cross country season has been a big one for Burda, who was previously named a Mid-Atlantic All-Region and a first team All-BIG EAST honoree for the third straight season. She has been the Wildcats top finisher in each of the last three meets, including a third place finish at the BIG EAST Championships and last week’s individual title at the NCAA regional meet. She also was the individual champion at the Penn State National Open last month and earned BIG EAST Female Athlete of the Week honors for that performance.
Burda helped lead Villanova to a second place team finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional and an automatic bid to the national meet in Louisville, Ky. this coming Saturday morning. This is the third straight year and the ninth time in the last 10 seasons that the Wildcats have earned a team berth to the national championships. Burda has been a part of the Villanova lineup at the NCAA meet in each of the past two seasons.
Since the current format of NCAA regional meets began in 2000, this is the ninth time that the Wildcats have produced the Mid-Atlantic Region champion and Women’s Athlete of the Year. Villanova has also tallied 10 first or second place finishes in the team standings at the Mid-Atlantic Regional and has produced a total of 72 all-region performers.
In addition to Burda, the Wildcats all-region honorees this year included junior Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa), freshmen Rachel McArthur (Bristow, Va.) and Lauren Ryan (South Yarra, Australia), junior Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) and senior Katie Fisher (Uxbridge, Ont.). The only previous years Villanova had as many as six all-region performers were 2002 and 2009.
The women’s race at this week’s NCAA Championships gets underway at 10:45 a.m. from E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park. This is the 29th appearance all-time at the national meet for the Wildcats, which is tied for the fifth-most appearances all-time.