"Ladies, you just made history."
That's how University of Mount Olive head coach Matt van Lierop broke the news to his team that the Trojans had captured the school's first-ever Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country title. Mount Olive finished first out of 10 teams at the 2015 Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country Championship Friday at Frank Liske Park in Concord, N.C. The Trojans had been conference runners-up in each of the last five years.
"It feels great to finally win with this group of girls," said Emily Shaw, a senior from Gilbert, Ariz. "We've been second three years in a row since I've been here (winning the conference championship) was our main goal this year."
Bailee Henry and Kelsey Valentine both finished in the top five out of 76 runners and earned All-Conference Carolinas First Team honors. Henry, who finished fourth at last year's championship, placed third Friday to become a three-time All-Conference Carolinas selection. Valentine finished fourth after just missing All-Conference honors last year with a 16th-place finish.
"I've never even been top 15 before, so to finish fourth is the best feeling ever," said Valentine, a junior from Thurmont, Md.
The Trojans also placed two runners on the All-Conference Carolinas Third Team. Freshman Paulena Kremling finished 13th and sophomore Rebecca Farnsley finished 15th. Farnsley earned All-Conference honors for the second straight year.
Sophomore Julia Bridges finished 18th to complete Mount Olive's scoring and give the Trojans five runners in the top 20 and seven runners in the top 30. Mireia Sune finished 27th and Shaw was 30th. Mount Olive's top seven all finished ahead of the rest of the field's top five.
Mount Olive compiled 53 points to finish 26 points ahead of Limestone. Event host Belmont Abbey was third with 110 points.
Van Lierop won his first Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year Award. With Friday's award, van Lierop has now won ever conference running sport coach of the year award: men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track and field, and men's and women's outdoor track and field.
Mount Olive now prepares for the 2015 NCAA Division II Women's Cross Country Southeast Regional, which takes place November 7 at Wingate, N.C.