Olivia Willett leads women’s cross country team to first regional championship since 2014

The women add another win to their undefeated campaign

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A photo of the women's SFU cross country team holding an SFU banner and Championship after winning Regionals.
Willett’s second place finish punched the team’s ticket to the NCAA Championship in Florida on November 20. Image courtesy of SFU Athletics

By: Isabella Urbani, Sports Editor

Heading into the season, the No. 2 ranked women’s cross country team and No.11 ranked NCAA Division II team had high expectations for a winning season, even after not racing for a year. It’s safe to say the women didn’t miss a beat. On the back of senior Olivia Willett, the team has shattered expectations with their perfect regular season record and two post season tournament wins

In an interview with The Peak, Willet said, “Seeing all of our hard work paying off through these victories has been very rewarding.” 

The women won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) title on October 23, after all five of the 6km racers placed in the top 10 of their individual races. This was the first title for the team since 2014, and the best score in the GNAC Championships since 2017

SFU built off their win by adding the regional championship to their historic season portfolio. With a time of 21:19.7, Olivia Willett finished second behind Keala Dishion, the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CAA) individual champion. Willett and freshman Kate Cameron’s 13ᵗʰ place finish earned All-West Region honours. All of SFU’s women’s team finished in the top 30, beating their previous second place finish at regionals in 2018.

When asked about her incredible senior run, Olivia Willett directed the spotlight to her teammates and the coaching staff. “These girls define what a team means to me. We have formed a really tight knit group this year where we can lean on each other and feel supported no matter how we perform.” 

Coming into her regional performance, Willett was aware that CAA Champion Stanislaus State was going to come hard out of the gate. Determined to not let a gap form, Willett didn’t let herself slip from the lead pack. SFU’s 75 points toppled that of second place Stanislaus State and third place finisher Chico State whose 12 year CAA Championship streak was broken last month.

With the stage set for the women’s NCAA Championship this weekend against experienced opponents, will SFU’s winning season give them the boost they need or distract them from the task at hand? On the preparation leading up to the big day, Willet said, “Heading into training we want to maintain our physical and mental health. Going into nationals without a loss definitely reminds us of what we are capable of.”  

The newly improved No. 8 women’s team will look to improve their best 6ᵗʰ place finish at the NCAA Championship in 2016. For senior Olivia Willet, this has been a journey well traveled. Her season will come to a close this Saturday as she attempts to go for the gold and complete her trio of championships this season.