Led by top-15 finishes from freshman Nicole Zehel (Wixom, Mich./Lutheran Westland) and fifth-year senior Whitney Bowman (Portage, Ind./Portage [Purdue]), the Valparaiso women's cross country team ran to a third-place finish Saturday at the Evansville Invitational in Evansville, Ind.
The Crusaders totaled 110 points, edging out Lipscomb by one point for third position in the team standings. The host Purple Aces earned the team title with 39 points, while Greenville's Michelle Sutton took the individual championship with a time of 18:18.41.
Each of Valpo's top-four runners broke the 20-minute barrier and posted season-best times over the 5K distance. Zehel led the Crusader pack, finishing 14th with a time of 19:09.71, while Bowman was right behind her, covering the 5K course in 19:10.03. Freshman Claire Johnson (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie) narrowly missed being the third Crusader inside the top-20, placing 21st while crossing the line in 19:16.33.
Fifth-year senior Kelsey Stueland (Tipton, Iowa/Tipton Community [Iowa]) improved by over a minute from her previous race, crossing the line in 19:46.04, good for 31st place. Sophomore Haley Kerlin (Rensselaer, Ind./Rensselaer) rounded out Valpo's top-five runners with a 41st place showing, finishing in 20:04.52.
Valparaiso now begins preparations for the 2010 Horizon League Cross Country Championships, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 30 in Chicago, Ill., hosted by Loyola.