The Butler men’s and women’s cross country teams made history last Saturday as they continued their respective streaks of conference championship victories with victories at the Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championships.
The men captured their 15th consecutive conference title, and the women brought home their fourth-straight title.
It was the first for both teams in the new conference.
The teams came back from Philadelphia with 16 pieces of hardware and became the first Butler teams to win titles in the A-10.
The Butler women, led by individual champion junior Katie Clark, finished with a team score of 37 to defeat defending team champion and second-place La Salle by 33 points.
Clark outran runner-up senior Meghan McGlinchey of La Salle over the last 400 meters, clocking a time of 16:55 in the 5-kilometer event.
“That (finish) was pretty much my last gear,” Clark said. “I was just thinking, ‘I’ve made it this far on her shoulder. There’s no way I can’t give this thing my everything when I’m this close to winning.’”
Sophomore Mara Olson finished nearly a full minute behind Clark but was the second Bulldog to cross the line, finishing fifth overall with a time of 17:55. Junior Kirsty Legg was right behind Olson, taking sixth place in 17:58 on the hilly course.
Rounding out Butler’s scoring runners were freshman standout Olivia Pratt, who finished 11th in 18:08, and Lauren McKillop, who placed 14th in 18:20.
All five Butler runners earned All-League honors.
The Butler men also dominated their race, winning by an even larger margin than their female counterparts.
Placing four of five scoring runners in the top eight finishers, the Bulldogs totaled 38 points and defeated runner-up St. Joseph’s by 83 points.
Junior Tom Anderson crossed the line first for Butler and in third place overall, posting a time of 25:51 on the 8-kilometer course.
Junior Ross Clarke followed in fifth place with a time of 25:57, and sophomore Harry Ellis took sixth in 25:58.
“(Ross, Harry and I) were just trying to put ourselves in front of the second kid from St. Joseph’s,” Anderson said, “which was the main aim in order to score well as a team. Then we found we were rolling really nicely and felt really comfortable.
“The course really took care of itself. It’s quite challenging, and coach (Matt Roe) had gotten us in good enough shape to deal with it. It unfolded exactly how we wanted to.”
Freshman Erik Peterson wound up eighth for the Bulldogs with a time of 26:03, and senior Kevin Oblinger ran a time of 26:13 for 16th place.
“We went in with an idea of what we could do and how we wanted to run on both sides,” coach Matt Roe said “and we accomplished what we were hoping for.”
In addition to the team titles and nine All-Conference honors, Pratt and Peterson were named Most Outstanding Rookies in their respective races.
Sixth-year coach Matt Roe also received historic accolades when he was named Coach of the Year on both the men’s and women’s sides. He became the first Butler coach to earn the honor in the A-10.
The NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet, which is the last-chance qualifier for the NCAA National meet, will take place in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 9.
McKillop said she is feeling some pressure heading into the regional meet but said Butler is in an exciting position.
“I’m very positive about this team,” she said. “We have (runners) one through five that are strong, and this is the first time since I’ve been at Butler that we’ve been (this) strong as a whole. It makes me really excited to race regionals in two weeks’ time.”
Her teammates are also fired up, and Clark said all five scorers being named All-Conference make her feel much more confident going into the next race.
“The atmosphere of the team this week has given me a really positive outlook on prospects for regionals,” Clark said. “We just work more as a unit. I feel like our attitudes are collectively more positive than they were at pre-nationals.”
The junior varsity squads will compete in their last meet at the Hoosier Invitational in Bloomington this weekend.