Freshman Claire Johnson (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie) paced the Crusader pack for the first time in her career as the Valparaiso women's cross country team finished in 17th place Friday afternoon at the Notre Dame Invitational in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Crusaders totaled 505 points for their 17th place finish in the Gold race and placed above fellow Horizon League squad Green Bay. Oakland took the team title, while West Virginia's Katie Gillespie earned individual top honors.
Johnson crossed the line in the 5K course with a time of 19:20, good for 83rd place out of a field of 161 harriers. Fellow rookie Nicole Zehel (Wixom, Mich./Lutheran Westland) was the second Crusader across the line, finishing the race in 107th place with a time of 19:51, while fifth-year senior Whitney Bowman (Portage, Ind./Portage [Purdue]) was just one second and one position behind Zehel.
Sophomore Haley Kerlin (Rensselaer, Ind./Rensselaer) continued the Valpo contingent of runners, placing 120th with a time of 20:10. Fifth-year senior Kelsey Stueland (Tipton, Iowa/Tipton Community [Iowa]) rounded out the Crusaders' top-five on Friday, covering the course in 20:49, good for 139th place.
Valparaiso returns to action in just over two weeks, as the Crusaders travel to the Evansville Invitational in Evansville, Ind. for their final tuneup for the 2010 Horizon League Championships.