Senior Stephanie Case led the Slippery Rock University women’s cross country team to a seventh place overall finish at the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regionals last Saturday at Lock Haven University with her national-qualifying fourth place finish.
The top five overall runners and the top three teams earned the ticket the the NCAA Division II Nationals.
After placing 12th at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships at Cooper’s Lake Campground two weeks ago, Case improved her placing and time, finishing the 6,000-meter course in 21:07.
Senior Kara Styles finished her final race 24th overall, with a time of 22:04, earning All-Region honors with Case and the rest of the top-25 finishers.
Both Case and Styles were on the All-Region team back to back years.
Placing third for the Rock and making her second appearance at the regional meet was sophomore Janine Powis in 59th place, with a time of 22:54.
Senior Abby Michaelian closely followed Powis in 63rd place, running her final 6,000-meter race in 23:00.
Sophomore Shannon Byerly rounded out the scoring for Slippery Rock with a 77th place finish and a time of 23:23.
Freshmen Karly Knechtel and Jenny Picot were the Green and White’s sixth and seventh place finishers in 78th and 86th place, respectively.
With this possibility of Saturday being Case’s final race, there was a sense of uncertainty prior to the race. She knew what was at stake and it was all up to her to guarantee another few weeks of participation and a ticket to Nationals.
“Stepping over that finish line was the best moment of my life. I knew I would make it to nationals if I was in the top-five and when I finished I knew I was in fourth,” Case said. “All of the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made over the past three years was finally worth it and that feeling is indescribable. Nationals will be my last cross country race and I’m going to leave everything out there.”
Case will be the first SRU women’s cross country runner from Rock to represent the school at the national meet since Jen Harpp in 2010.
Coach John Papa has been around for the duration of Case’s running career here at Slippery Rock and has been part of her triumphs as well as her drawbacks.
“Steph improved tremendously during her three years here at SRU,” Papa said. “She made a commitment to become the best runner that she could be. Steph set a goal of making nationals and she made it happen by her efforts.”
Styles’ 24th place finish will be her last in a collegiate cross country meet, but the relationships she has developed through her four years here, as well as the many lessons learned are equally as valuable to her.
“I couldn’t ask for better coaches or teammates, and I’m so proud to put on the Rock uniform and compete. I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible.” Styles said. “Crossing the line at regionals was a really special thing for me, especially this year. Coming down the final stretch, I had so many emotions running through my head and it was a very special moment to see my family and teammates there to congratulate me.”
Case will be making the trip to the NCAA Division II Nationals held at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo. on November 17th.