WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Emma Benner qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced Saturday. Benner was the fourth individual finisher among competitors not on qualifying teams, which earned her the automatic bid.
“I’m excited to make it back to the NCAA Championships and represent Purdue,” Benner said. “I didn’t think I even had a chance to make it after the race, so, honestly, it was a complete shock to get the good news. The last 24 hours have been filled with frustration thinking my season had ended, but now I’m ready to get back to work and prepare to compete at nationals.”
Benner, a sophomore, qualifies for the second year in a row. It is the third consecutive season the women will have representation at the NCAA Championships and six years in a row at least one Boilermaker will be competing. Benner had to wait until Saturday to find out which teams would qualify, which affected the individual qualifiers. After the meet, Michigan and Michigan State were the only teams assured a bid to the championships, which left Benner as the 10th individual finisher on a non-qualifying team.
Only the top four are assured a spot at NCAAs.
Saturday, three more teams from the Great Lakes Region earned at-large bids to the championship, which bumped Benner up to the fourth individual finisher on a non-qualifying team and gave her a spot at NCAAs.
A year ago at the NCAA Championships, Benner finished 104th, including 17th among freshman competitors.
“Having competed at NCAAs last year will be a big benefit for me,” Benner said. “Last year, I had big goals going into the meet, but it is such a crazy experience. The days leading up to it were distracting with all the perks and excitement surrounding the meet. The race was also a bit of a shock with so many good athletes around me. Experience will be on my side, as I will have a better understanding about how to stay focused and remain calm. I know coach John Oliver has prepared me to compete the best I can at any stage.”
The NCAA Championships are set for Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky. The women’s 6,000-metre race will begin at 10:45 a.m. ET.