UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Senior Christine Bendzinski continued to show that she can run well against strong competition from big-school programs with a 12th-place finish out of 177 runners in a loaded field at the Penn State National Open on Friday.
Bendzinski completed the 6k race in 20:44, which was just two seconds off of finishing in the top 10. Eight of the 11 runners in front the Bucknell senior came from Power Five schools in the ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12. Seven of the runners in front of her qualified for last year’s NCAA Championships.
Bucknell was 10th out of 17 teams, but was the best of the three Patriot League teams. The Bison finished with 252 points, while Lehigh, which was picked one spot ahead of Bucknell in the latest Mid-Atlantic Region rankings, took 14th with 382 points. Loyola was also at the event and ended up 17th.
The event included four nationally-ranked teams, including No. 10 Penn State, which won the team title with a score of 44. No. 15 Villanova was second with 62 and was followed by Dartmouth with 122. Princeton (125), Cornell (162), No. 26 Oklahoma State (179), James Madison (207), No. 29 West Virginia (211), and North Carolina (233) rounded out the teams other than Bucknell in the top 10.
Junior Colleen Buckley turned in a quality run for the Bison, taking 24th with a time of 21:02. Junior Jenna Farmer (58th), junior Margaret Thomson (87th), and sophomore Lauren Gronbeck (98th) were also scored runners.
“I was a bit worried going in because we are not at full strength and we had some women saying their legs were tired all week,” Bucknell head coach Kevin Donner said. “We have been training hard, but you can’t back off too soon. I thought our women battled well and ran a solid race. I do believe we have another level in us. We need to close the gap from our front runners with our depth.”
Villanova’s Bella Burda won the race in 20:21, edging Penn State’s Jillian Hunsberger, a returning All-American, by one second. Penn State’s Kathryn Munks was just two seconds off the pace in third place.
Bucknell will send runners to Lafayette’s Leopard Invitational on Saturday. That is the final meet before the Bison head to Lehigh for the Patriot League Championships on Saturday, Oct. 28.