After just three years of competing at the NCAA Division II level, the PLNU women’s cross country team placed 12th at the national championships on Nov. 19 — claiming the best finish for any PLNU team ever at an NCAA II event, and the second top place ever for a PacWest team, following California Baptist University.

The team was one of the youngest at the championships — made up of freshmen, sophomores, and one junior — but that didn’t stop it from claiming 12th place out of 32 teams with 365 points. It also didn’t stop sophomore Brianna Bartello from capturing an All-American honor with her 37th place finish. Bartello led the Sea Lions with a time of 21:27.2 over a 6k course — an average of 5:46 per mile!

Junior Alex Hernandez was the next Sea Lion across the finish line, finishing in 77th place with a time of 22:05.1. Marissa Bartello and Hannah Benoit Bucher followed quickly, placing 90th with a time of 22:16.7 and 96th (22:19.4), respectively.

Jordan Sienkiewicz capped off the scoring for PLNU by placing 144th with a time of 22:46.6. Right behind Sienkiewicz was Jose Frye as first alternate, with a time of 22:56.8 to place 156th.

After the meet, Jerry Arvin, PLNU’s women’s cross country coach, was glowing with pride for each team member. A veteran coach with nearly 40 years of total experience, Arvin believes the lessons his athletes learn in cross country will prepare them to be successful in life, including the commitment to practice, the application of learning from mistakes, and the joy in winning. He was full of praise for the team.

“I’ve been here 29 years and this is the most talented group of runners I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Some athletes don’t compete well, even if they’re good. These women don’t let the hype of the race bother them. This is the first time most of them have been at this event. We were ranked 15th going into it, and only missed 11th by three points. The future is bright for these women.”

By Kellie Colunga & Danny Barnts

PLNU’s the Viewpoint publishes relevant and vital stories that grapple with life's profound questions from a uniquely Christian perspective. In addition to the content offered online, the Viewpoint print magazine is published three times a year in spring, summer, and fall.