PITTSBURGH, Pa. --- Tusculum University senior Nicole McMillen finished 59th overall at the 2018 NCAA Division II Women's Cross Country Championship, held Saturday afternoon at the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park.
McMillen covered the six-kilometer course in 23:57.7 to become the best finisher at nationals in program history. Three-time qualifier Amanda Musick placed 124th in 2001, 152nd in 2003 and 163rd in 2004.
The Pickering, Ontario native was the second-place runner among South Atlantic Conference entries in the field of 266 competitors, trailing only 51st-place Lucie Noall of Queens who finished 11 seconds faster with a time of 23:46.5. McMillen was fourth among runners from the Southeast Region, behind seventh-place Leah Hanle of Mount Olive, 41st-place Heloise Duffie De Tassig of Flagler and Noall.
McMillen broke well, running 2:15 for the opening 700 meters to sit in 37th place. At the 1,800-meter mark, McMillen had dropped three places to 40th at 6:51.9. She then had her best split of the race as she covered the next 1,100 meters in 4:01.1, but slipped 11 places into 51st at the midway point of the race. The next kilometer resulted in McMillen dipping into 56th place as she reached the 3,900-meter checkpoint at 15:48.4. Heading into the final 1,100 meters, McMillen had slid to 61st place but she bounced back with a 4:02.1 split to gain two places at the finish line.
The 59th-place finish by McMillen came in just the third collegiate cross country race of her career. A four-year starter on defense for the Tusculum women's soccer team, she was a member of the first-year Pioneer track and field team last winter and spring. After Tusculum was eliminated from the SAC Women's Soccer Championship, McMillen had the chance to enter the SAC Cross Country Championship and finished fifth overall. She then competed at the Southeast Regional and placed fifth to clinch an at-large berth to nationals.
Grand Valley State placed four runners in the top 10, including individual champion Sarah Berger, and won the team title with 41 points. The University of Mary finished second, followed by Adams State, Western Colorado and Colorado Mines in the women's top five.