Collins’ race earns her NAIA Runner of the Week

Westmont’s Kelly Collins of Pleasant Hill has been named the NAIA Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week after finishing first at the Vanguard Invitational on Saturday. The sophomore completed the 5,000 meter course in a time of 17:40 – more than seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.

“Kelly has worked hard for the last year to become a college level runner and not be so anxious,” said Westmont head coach Russell Smelley. “As she has become less anxious she has run faster, gained more confidence and not put so much pressure on herself.”

The Warriors, ranked at number 17 at the time of the race, finished first of 18 teams at the event with 42 points. Then second-ranked Biola finished in second place with 63 points. Westmont’s first two runners – Collins and Corinne Cherne (fifth place, 18:07) – helped secure the Warrior victory by finishing ahead of Biola’s first two runners who came in sixth and eighth.

“We were more purposeful in planning individual and team goals,” said Smelley about the reasons for his team’s success. “I think the athletes took more ownership of it. When they got out there and felt that part where it is hard to keep going, they had a purpose different than just wanting to finish.

“At two miles they were together, organized and in contact with each other. They looked like they could keep going,” said Smelley. “At three miles, they were in even better shape. They had solidified and improved their lead over Biola.”

As a result of the race, Westmont moved up to number five in today’s NAIA National Coaches Poll. Biola moved down to number nine in the poll while The Master’s was listed at number 13. No other Golden State Athletic Conference teams were listed in the top-25, though Arizona Christian did receive votes.

Westmont will compete in the Biola Invitational on Saturday, October 25 as a final tune-up before the GSAC Championship on November 8.

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