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Competing among 31 of the top squads in the nation, the MIT women’s cross country team secured a 10th place finish at the Division III NCAA Championship in Hanover, Ind. on Saturday. It was the first appearance at the National Championship meet in MIT program history and the Engineers more than held their own in the highly competitive field.

Jacqueline M. Wentz ’10 was the first through the chute for MIT, completing the six-kilometer course in 22:04.23, good for 54th place in a field of 279, earning 34 crucial points for MIT. Wentz now owns the highest individual finish at this event since Debbie Won’s ’00 26th place showing in 1998. She is just the fifth runner in program history to garner a top 100 standing at the NCAA Championship.

Just over 30 seconds behind Wentz, a pack of Tech harriers finished within two seconds and 10 places of each other. Anna M. Holt-Gosselin ’11 was the first of that group to cross the line at 22:35.12, good for 111th and 70 points. Jennifer A. Doyle ’09 (22:35.42) was two spots behind her. Andrea E. Bradshaw ’09 finished another two and a half seconds back to secure a 120th place showing while bringing in 76 points for MIT.

Janice O’Brien ’12 (22:53.97) rounded out the team scoring for the Engineers, collecting 102 points with her 150th place finish. O’Brien landed just outside the top 20 among rookie runners in the country. The team’s two other runners, Katherine J. Eve ’12 (172) and Maria J. Monks ’10 (192), each cracked the top 200.

MIT’s 354 points were enough to hold off the State University of New York at Geneseo (369) for the final spot in the top 10. New England regional champion Middlebury College easily beat out second-place Calvin College for their fifth NCAA team championship. Bethel University (Minn.) junior Marie Borner was the individual winner, breaking the tape at 20:43.91, more than nine seconds better than her closest follower.

The Engineers are well positioned to build on this success in 2009, as five of their top seven runners will return next year. Seniors Bradshaw and Doyle closed out their MIT careers on a high note Saturday.