Senior Caitlin Busch, a Freeburg graduate, became only the sixth runner in Missouri Valley Conference history to claim consecutive individual MVC Cross Country titles and helped the Bradley women’s cross country team repeat as team champs with a victory Saturday morning at the 2015 Valley Championship.
Busch posted the top time at the MVC Championship since 2005 and joined Bradley Hall of Fame member Mary Ellen Hill as one of six back-to-back MVC Cross Country individual champions in league history after also claiming top honors at last year’s event.
Caitlin combined with twin sister Kristen Busch to give Bradley, which was the pre-championship favorite to defend its team title, two of the top three harriers in the field. The Braves had three of the top 14 and five in the top 19 overall to finish with 54 points. Wichita State was second at 76 points with I-74 rival Illinois State a distant third at 94 points.
“The women were down at the two-mile mark, but we had some big performances today,” saidd 2015 MVC Cross Country Coach of the Year Darren Gauson.
The individual title gives Caitlin back-to-back MVC Athlete of the Year honors as she garnered All-MVC recognition for the second straight season. She broke her 5K school record time by over six seconds, crossing the line at 16:54.20 as she outkicked Illinois State’s Ariel Michalek, who posted a time of 16:57.78, for the top spot.
Kristen also clocked a career-best 5K time in the race, taking third overall at 17:01.41 to post the second-best time in program history. The third-place finish made Kristen the third three-time All-MVC Cross Country runner in program history as she joined senior teammate Sarah McMahon and Mary Ellen Hill on the exclusive list.
Senior Rosie Hiles took home honorable mention All-Valley honors for the second straight year. Hiles was 14th overall at 17:37.52, missing a career-best time by three seconds.
Fellow senior Rachel Sudbury was three seconds from also garnering honorable mention all-conference honors, crossing the line in a career-best time of 17:40.11 to finish 17th. Her time ranks eighth among Bradley marks. Freshman Abby Jockisch was also strong in her first Valley Championship turning in a season-best time of 17:44.21, which ranks 10th in school history, to take 19th in the field and round out the team scoring for the Braves.
The title was Bradley’s second straight and third overall. In addition, Bradley is the first team in MVC history to win the team title and claim the individual winner in back-to-back seasons.
The Bradley women’s cross country team returns to action Nov. 13 at noon at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Lawrence, Kan.