Salem, Ore. - Senior All-American Annie Lydens (Tokyo, Japan - pictured) ran a 21:29.98 to finish in seventh place at the NCAA West Regional championships on Saturday, in the final race of her storied career.
Lydens easily qualified for the nationals as an individual, where she finished third last year (21:02), and is the second-leading returning runner in the country*. However, Lydens, who carries a 3.99 GPA and has had summer internships with both NATO and the U.S. State Department, will be unable to attend nationals next weekend, as she is a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship, and has her meeting with the Rhodes committee on the same day.
Lydens has had an injury-plagued senior season which forced her to withdraw from the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational and then sit out the SCIAC Championships, before being cleared medically 12 days ago. She rallied to get into top form in time for the NCAA West Regional, where she hoped to defend her 2011 title, but ended up settling for a seventh place finish and All-Region honors.
"Annie ran very well considering the past few weeks," said Head Coach Kirk Reynolds. "The course was a 3k loop, so she ran the first loop conservatively to get the rust out and get her confidence going, and then she raced the second loop hard. The results splits show her running faster on the second loop and she was really running people down. Given where she was even one week ago, her finish is a tremendous achievement that shows how talented she is."
As a team, the Sagehens finished sixth in the region with 190 points, while SCIAC rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps earned the top spot with 40 points. Lewis & Clark, Willamette, Occidental and Colorado College were in the 2-5 spots. A total of 19 teams scored in the meet.
Claire Brickson and Camille Matonis finished second and third on the Sagehens and came in 36th and 37th place overall, essentially crossing the line together with a 22:41.22 and 22:41.26, respectively. Roxanne Cook was 50th and Molly Cole 61st to round out the top five for Pomona-Pitzer.
Lydens came to Pomona-Pitzer as a hurdler and middle distance runner, and didn't begin competing in cross country until her sophomore season, when she was named SCIAC Runner of the Year and finished ninth nationally. She added a second-place finish nationally in the 5000 meters at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field championships in 2011, and then a third place finish in last year's cross country championships.
Lydens had foot surgery after cross country season last year and did not recover in time to qualify for outdoor track season. She then battled a muscle injury in her hip this fall which kept her from reaching top form. She still hopes to make a run at a national title in outdoor track in the spring season this year.
* Note: a previous version of this article erroneously stated Lydens was the leading returning runner in the country. Christy Cazzola of Wisconsin-Oshkosh was a senior last year when she finished second, but returned this fall for her fifth season.