Junior Caitlin Busch paced the Bradley women’s cross country team to a third-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regionals, held last Friday at Newman Golf Course.
Busch, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) individual champion, posted a 20:36.4 time to finish 12th, breaking Bradley’s school record and earning her All-Midwest Region honors in the process.
The 175 points totaled by Bradley’s women’s squad trailed fifth-ranked Iowa State (66), who won its fifth consecutive regional. Twentieth-ranked Minnesota came in second, tallying 125 points.
Senior Emily Delvo also earned All-Region honors, finishing 22nd with a career-best time of 20:49.5. Caitlin’s twin sister Kristen Busch also clocked a career-best time, but finished 26th and missed All-Region honors by just two-tenths of a second.
Normally, the Braves run as a pack, but head coach Willy Wood said he allowed Kristen Busch to separate herself from her teammates for this race, which he said benefitted the team.
“We run as a pack because we think that is the most effective thing for our program,” Wood said. “At the conference meet, we felt like it may have hampered Kristen a little bit so we wanted to give her a bit more freedom to do what we thought would help the team the most.”
By no means was that a knock on Busch; instead Wood said it was just a matter of how the other runners preferred to run.
“It was nothing other than the fact that the other three woman that ran together run identically,” Wood said. “Their race strategies are exactly the same, so it made sense for them to do that and in this situation, it just didn’t make as much sense for Kristen to do it.”
On the men’s side, the Braves’ ninth-place finish was the team’s best result since 1983, thanks in large part to seniors Chase Coffey and Eric Delvo.
Coffey broke Bradley’s school record in the 10K, crossing the line with a time of 30:57.1, good for a 44th place finish.
Fellow senior Eric Delvo also had a strong performance, but was hampered by an Achilles’ injury he has been battling for a while. Delvo finished 52nd, despite missing the entire week of training leading up to the event.
Wood said he was happy with how Delvo ran despite the injury, which the coach says occurred as Delvo was running up one of the course’s hills.
“In the meet, he was running phenomenally for like 8,000 of the 10,000 meters, he was way up towards the front,” Wood said. “Then he had to go up the switchback, the hill, and that just re-aggravated it. So his last 1K he really couldn’t run, and I would imagine he lost probably 30 places in the last two minutes unfortunately.”
The men’s team as a whole performed well, with freshman Taylor Floyd Mews finishing 60th in his first-ever 10K race, becoming the first Bradley freshman to do that since 1989.
Michael Ward, the MVC Freshman of the Year, finished right behind Floyd Mews. Two other Braves, sophomore Patrick Campbell and junior Marshall Moyer, also clocked top-70 finishes for Bradley.
Despite both teams performing well, neither team was invited to the NCAA Championships, held this weekend in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Wood noted the teams have performed very well this season, but said he would have liked to qualify for the championship.
“Whenever you come that close, it’s going to be disappointing, whether it was really true that you were going to do it or not,” Wood said. “I think people would’ve enjoyed being there, obviously; we ran well all year. But it’s just really hard to do.”
Wood, who has coached the Braves for less than six months, said he is optimistic that next year’s team will be even better than this year’s.
“We’re returning basically everyone so hopefully next year that’ll happen,” Wood said. “Even when you look at the teams below us now though, we’re beating Oklahoma State, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois. We’re beating legit schools.“