the north face mountain Bison claim 18th indoor crown
LEWISBURG The Bucknell women’s track and field team sits atop the Patriot League again, this time by a razor thin margin.
Clutch performances from standout distance runners Colleen Buckley and Christine Bendzinski, a huge day for the high jumpers, and terrific performances all around Gerhard Fieldhouse lifted the Bison to a dramatic 4.5 point win over runner up Army at the Patriot League Indoor Championships, which wrapped up on Sunday.
After the Black Knights rallied to take a 1.5 point lead with just three events remaining, Buckley and Bendzinski ran away from the field and finished 1 2 in the 3,000 meters. Junior Margaret Thompson came from well behind with a great finishing kick to win the first heat of the 3,000 and snuck a point for eighth place overall, giving the Bison 19 in that event to six for Army.
The Bison then just needed to avoid disaster in the two finishing relays, the distance medley and 4×400. Lehigh helped out by edging out Army for the win in the distance medley, and then in the 4×400 Army placed third and Bucknell fifth.
The Bison women captured the indoor title for the second year in a row, for the fifth time in the last seven years, and for the 18th time in the 28 year history of the Patriot League.
“The victory was very sweet, because we knew it was going to be a huge challenge, especially indoors,” said Kevin Donner, who was named Patriot League Coach of the Year after the meet. “We do see ourselves as more of an outdoors team, because of the way we recruit and structure our team, but to win at home when we knew we were going to be challenged by Army,
Navy and Boston University was great. It was close to the very end, but we had a few events that swung our way such as the mile, the 3,000, and the relays. This gave our ladies a lot of confidence and they continued to pluck away.”
Buckley, who won the 5,000 meters on Saturday and finished fourth in the mile to start the day on Sunday, was named Patriot League Track Athlete of the Meet.
Bendzinski easily could have won the award as well, as she continued to make history by winning the mile for the fourth year in a row, posting a 4:56.48 to beat Army’s Abby Holbrook by a second and a half. Bendzinski also anchored the winning 4×800 relay picking up her fourth straight gold medal in that event as well and was just a stride behind Buckley at the finish of the 3,000.
Bendzinski became just the fourth athlete in league history to win an indoor individual event four straight years. Two of the others are Bucknell Hall of Famers: Tameka Hinton, who did it in both the 55 meter dash and 200 meter dash from 1992 95, and Stephanie Bango, who claimed four golds in the 800 from 1999 2002. Lehigh’s Courtney Avery won four straight high jump titles from 2014 17.
“What a great achievement for Chrissy Bendzinski to win the mile four years in a row and 4X800 relay four years in a row,” said Donner. “She is an outstanding athlete, but today was a total team effort. Those sixths, sevenths and eighths added up, and when you win by 4.5 points, you look back and realize that every event really meant something.”