LOUISVILLE, KY – Becoming only the third Cal Poly female to advance to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship since Cal Poly made the move to Division I in 1994, Laura Hollander, finished 9th with a time of 19:45. Betsy Saina covered the 6k E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park course in Louisville with a winning time of 19:27.
"She fought to the end," said head coach Mark Conover. "This is one of the best performances in national freshman history and ever at Cal Poly."
After the first 1000 meters Hollander led a large pack as the field started to thin out. At 1500 meters Hollander continued to lead a pack of seven runners. At the second split Hollander trailed Saina of Iowa State by a body length with Jordan Hasay on her shoulder.
Hollander remained in the lead pack at 4k, trailing the leader by just a meter, but in the last 1000 meters of the race Hollander dropped off the pace and was four seconds back of the lead pack.
The race came down to a kick over the last 200 meters among four runners with Saina outkicking Abbey D'Agostino of Dartmouth and winning the championship.
Hollander was edged out of first place at the NCAA West Regional Championship last week at the Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle to finish second with a time of 19:22 when Hasay came from behind to win over the last 1000 meters.
The true freshman had a record-breaking performance at the BWC conference championship earning her both Big West Women's Athlete of the Year and Big West Women's Freshman of the Year.
The Huntington Beach, Calif., native ran a top time of 19:12.6, shattering both the course and conference record by forty-five seconds, to garner the women's individual crown. She also became just the second female athlete to post a sub 20-minute time in the 6K since the championship moved to the new distance in 2003.
Hollander has been stellar all season as she paced the Mustangs at every meet she competed in, set three course records, claimed four individual titles and nabbed three Big West Women's Athlete of the Week honors. She becomes the first Cal Poly woman to earn Big West Women's Athlete of the Year honors and the fifth Mustang in seven years to grab the Big West Women's Freshman of the Year award.
Hollander opened the season in winning the Lagoon Open at UCSB in record time of 16:42. She backed that up three weeks later at the Pac-12 Preview with a winning time of 17:02. On Oct. 12 she won the Wisconsin Invitational in record time of 19:33.
She was also named USA Track & Field's Athlete of the Week for her efforts at the Big West Championship.