TAMPA, Fla. – Bucknell’s Christine Bendzinski wrapped up an illustrious collegiate career with an outstanding run in the 5k Saturday at the NCAA Women’s Track and Field East Preliminary Round at the USF Track & Field Stadium.. The senior just missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships with a 14th-place finish
Bendzinski improved nine spots after entering the race as the 23rd seed. She crossed the line in 16:26.87, finishing just ahead of runners from Eastern Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State in a field of 48 competitors.
"Chrissy may have run the gutsiest 5k I have ever seen," Bucknell head coach Kevin Donner said. "She really struggled in the 1,500 quarterfinal in the afternoon and was emotionally and physically drained. We declared the 5k as a safety net just in case she didn't make it out of the first round on Thursday. After the 1,500 race today, we gave it some thought whether to even run the 5k or not."
The top five finishers from each of the two heats and the top two times of the remaining runners advanced to the NCAA Championships. Bendzinski was seventh in her heat and had the fourth-fastest time of the runners that didn’t automatically qualify.
"In the end she did not want to see her college career end on a bad note so she decided to give the 5k a shot and she ran an incredible race," Donner said. "With 600 to go, she was in contention to qualify for Eugene. She finished well above her seed. I will never forget this race and watching her battle."
The 5k race was won by North Carolina State senior Erika Kemp with a time of 16:06.17. North Carolina junior Morgan Ilse took the final bid to the NCAA Championships with a time of 16:23.30.
The 5k was the second race of the day for Bendzinski. Earlier, she finished 24th in the 1,500-meter run after qualifying 12th out of the first round on Thursday.
Bendzinski will leave Bucknell as a three-time NCAA East Preliminary Round qualifier, a 14-time Patriot League champion over cross country and the two track and field seasons, a 23-time All-Patriot League runner, a four-time Patriot League Scholar Athlete of the Year, and a nine-time Academic All-Patriot League selection.
"Chrissy brought so much to our program the past few years and has been so inspiring," Donner said.