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November 19, 2011

Lydens Earns All-America Honors With Third-Place Finish At NCAA's

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Winneconne, Wisc. - Junior Annie Lydens (Tokyo, Japan) finished in third place at the NCAA Division III Women's Cross Country National Championships with a personal-best time of 21:02 on Saturday at the Lake Breeze Golf Course, hosted by Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

(pictured: Lydens coming into the final turn of the homestretch in third place)

Lydens' third-place finish earned her All-American honors and improved on her ninth place finish a year ago, when she was in her first season of running competitive cross country (at any level). She also finished second in the spring at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field championships in the 5000 meters, giving her three top 10 finishes in her first three national competitions.

In addition to setting a personal-best time, Lydens also became the highest finisher in Pomona-Pitzer Cross Country history (men or women), eclipsing the fifth-place finish by men's runner Crosby Freeman in 2004. The highest women's finish before Lydens was 16th by Alicia Freese in 2010, which Lydens eclipsed last year by coming in ninth.

"It was fun to run in a really competitive field and be challenged," said Lydens. "I'm very pleased with how the race went today, and I'm looking forward to breaking that 21-minute barrier."

Sophomore Chiara Del Piccolo of Williams College won the individual championship with a time of 20:51, with Christy Cazzola of host Wisconsin-Oshkosh, coming in second place six seconds behind. Lydens then crossed the line in third place with a time of 21:02.8, beating her time from last year's national championships (21:27) by around 25 seconds and edging out her previous best time in any race of 21:03.9 at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on Oct. 1.

After one mile, Lydens was in 16th place but in a crowded front pack. She moved up to fifth place at the two-mile mark and then to a close third by running a 5:35 over the third mile (a 6K race equates to about 3.7 miles). Del Piccolo, though, who was also an NCAA regional champion last weekend, had the strongest finishing kick and was able to pass three-mile leader Cazzola and win the individual crown.

Lydens had won the last four individual races she had entered building up to the national championships, including the NCAA West Regional last weekend, which she captured by a seven-second margin over the second-place finisher at Pomona-Pitzer's home course with a time of 21:26. She also dominated the SCIAC, winning the conference championship and the Multi-Duals race by almost 30 seconds apiece.

As a result of her strong fall season, Lydens won both the SCIAC Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year Award and the USTFCCCA West Region Athlete of the Year Award, the second straight year that she has captured both of those honors. She will also be a strong candidate for Academic All-America honors in the spring, as she currently carries a 4.0 GPA as a major in PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at Pomona College.

Lydens will next be in action in the spring, when she will be a contender for national championships in the 1500 meters and 5000 meters.