Emily Stites became the first freshman in school history to take home a national championship Saturday when she won the USAT&F Cross Country Championship junior women’s 6K in St. Louis with a time of 20 minutes and 27.3 seconds, more than 21 seconds faster than the runner up, high-schooler Erin Finn.
Stites will add the national championship to a long list of individual achievements this year. Named an All-American for finishing 26 th at the NCAA Championships in November, Stites beat every other American at the BUPA Great Edinburgh XC Challenge in January and was named the CAA Rookie of the Year in cross country.
She’s just the third runner in school history to take home a national championship of any kind, and the Ohio native has already made her mark on the school record books, having set rookie marks in the mile and 3,000 meter for indoor track.
Along with classmate Meghan McGovern, who finished eighth Saturday with a time of 21:32.3, Stites is now eligible to be selected to Team USA for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland March 24.
Stites pulled away from much of the field early Saturday, going step-for-step with only Finn by the 3K mark. Finn had a second-long lead when the two hit the start of the fifth kilometer, but Stites had more left in the tank over the last two kilometers, crossing the finish line 21.3 seconds before Finn and 41.5 seconds ahead of Colorado’s Carrie Verdon.