Setting the Scene
Bison Open
Teams: Bucknell, Juniata, Loyola (Md.), Lycoming, Susquehanna
When: Friday, Sept. 1 – 5:45 p.m.
Where: Lewisburg, Pa.

About the Bison
* Bucknell is ranked ninth in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Bison are one spot behind Lehigh and one spot ahead of Duquesne. * The Bison return 20 letterwinners and lost eight from a team that won the Patriot League Championship last season.
* Defending Patriot League individual champion Christine Bendzinski is set to compete in her senior season. She is a two-time First Team All-Patriot League runner and a two-time Academic All-Patriot League selection.
* Junior Colleen Buckley was also a First Team All-Patriot League runner last season.
* Also returning from last year’s conference championship lineup are junior Anna Chiodo-Ortiz, junior Margaret Thomson, junior Jenna Farmer, junior Christine O’Kane, and sophomore Lauren Gronbeck.
* Bucknell took the top 11 spots at last year’s Bison Open. Farmer is the top returning finisher with a fourth-place showing.
* In preparation for Bucknell hosting the 2018 Patriot League Championships, the setup of the home course has been changed from past years. Check the link at the top of this article for a view of the course map.

Scouting the Opponents
* Juniata was fourth at the 2016 Landmark Conference Championships. Claudia Sacks was the Eagles’ top finisher in 18th.
* Loyola (Md.) took eighth at the 2016 Patriot League Championships. Cordelia McGinn led the Greyhounds in 30th.
* Lycoming finished ninth at the 2016 Middle Atlantic Conference Championships. Kaylee Long was the team’s top finisher in 34th.
* Susquehanna took third at the 2016 Landmark Conference Championships. Hannah Stauffer is the team’s top returning finisher in 14th.

Up Next
* Bucknell will travel to Penn State to compete in the Spiked Shoe Invitational on Friday, Sept. 8.

Season Preview

In 2016, the Bucknell women’s cross country team turned in one of the most dominant performances in Patriot League history at the league championships. The Bison claimed the top four spots in the individual standings, the first team in league history to accomplish that feat, while finishing with a score of 23, the lowest by any team since 2008, but that came in an eight-team field. Bucknell also claimed a league-best five of the possible 14 All-Patriot League awards.

Three of those All-Patriot League runners – Kate Scott (First Team), Sarah Chandler (First Team) and Elizabeth Sheprow (Second Team) – have graduated, but the Bison women have traditionally been a power in the Patriot League and that shouldn’t change, as the Bison aim to capture their third straight Patriot League title in 2017. Head coach Kevin Donner has his sights set on another Patriot League title, but also on his program taking the next step.

The Bison compete in one of the stronger regions in the country, but managed to finish sixth among 28 teams at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, their highest finish since 2006, giving Donner reason to believe his squad is ready to take the next step.

“We’re the defending champs, but more importantly, we’re trying to get to the next level,” commented the six-time Patriot League Coach of the Year in women’s cross country. “We’re trying to be an NCAA-caliber team. We’re at a point now where the expectation of competing at a national level is there. We just have to get over that threshold and make the meet.”

Bucknell returns Patriot League champion Christine Bendzinski, the Female Performer of the Meet who became Bucknell’s fourth runner and the first since 2006 to win the individual race at the league championships. Bendzinski carried that momentum into the track and field season, earning four all-league citations while making a second consecutive trip to the NCAA East Preliminary Meet.

Colleen Buckley looks to build upon a strong sophomore campaign. She finished fourth at last year’s championships to earn First Team accolades, while earning three more all-league honors during the track and field season, including a gold medal in the 10,000-meter. Buckley also qualified for the NCAA regional meet for the first time in her career.

“Colleen had a very outstanding sophomore year,” said Donner. “She was great the entire year of cross country and track and field. She is really developing and has had a great summer.”

The Bison return three runners who finished in the top 20 of the race – Anna Chiodo Ortiz, Margaret Thomson and Jenna Farmer –and Donner expects the trio to improve upon their standing in 2017. Christine O’Kane, a 2015 All-Patriot League honoree, returns to the fold along with Lauren Gronbeck, who had a solid freshman campaign that carried over to the track and field season.

Bucknell also returns Sara Christian, Emma Cousins, Emma Harris, Jamie Kenney, Lindsay Schafer, Brennan Sharkey, Delaney Worth, Lauren Hazzard, Madison Narr, Morgan Price, Tabitha Wismer, Hope Beyer, Mikayla Cochrane, Emma Dolen and Defne Sement, which will provide the roster with an abundance of depth.

The Bison welcome nine freshmen, including Sarah Bain, Ashley Blair, Kelsey Bordash, Payton Capes, Madeleine Hunt, Elyssa Penson, Kaitlyn Ryan, Ruth Segall and Tiara Tardy.

The Patriot League Championships are set for Oct. 28 at Lehigh’s Goodman Campus Course. The Bison will return to that same course on Nov. 10 for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional.