BETHLEHEM, Pa. – As prolific as Christine Bendzinski’s cross country career has been over four years at Bucknell, the one thing she still wanted to add to her list of accomplishments was a trip to the NCAA Championships. The senior made that happen Friday morning at Lehigh, earning an automatic bid with a fourth-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.
Bendzinski’s fourth-place finish came in a field of 195 runners. She completed the 6k race in 20:14, coming in behind Villanova’s Bella Burda (20:01), Penn State’s Jillian Hunsberger (20:05), and Princeton’s Gabrielle Forrest (20:12).
A two-time Patriot League champion and three-time All-Patriot League runner, Bendzinski probably would have qualified for the NCAA Championships earlier in her career if not for untimely injuries. Fully healthy on Saturday, she became the second runner to qualify in the past 10 years. The other was Kate Scott last season.
Bucknell finished eighth in the team standings with 217 points, giving it a top-10 finish for the fourth straight year. Penn State won the race with a score of 31 and was followed by Villanova (60) and Georgetown (109) in second and third. Princeton (123), Pittsburgh (162), Penn (188), and West Virginia (214) rounded out the teams in front of the Bison, while Maryland (239) and Temple (248) finished behind them in the top 10. Twenty-eight teams competed at the regional meet.
Colleen Buckley had a great meet for the Bison, earning all-region honors with a 21st-place showing. After not having an all-region runner since 2006, the team has had four over the past three seasons. Buckley crossed the line in 20:36 and was just seven-tenths of a second behind the runner in front of her.
"It was a solid team race and we were pleased to match our eighth-place ranking in the region," Bucknell head coach Kevin Donner said. "I was especially pleased to have two all-region runners in Bendzinski and Buckley. Bendzinski executed the perfect race plan to finish fourth and qualify for the NCAA Championships."
Bendzinski will compete at the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, Nov. 18.