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Ohio collegiate cross country coaches recognize Rockets’ exceptional season

Junior Athena Welsh was voted Division I Female Runner of the Year, freshman Claire Steigerwald was voted Division I Freshman Female Runner of the Year, and UT Head Coach Linh Nguyen was voted Division I Women’s Coach of the Year by the Ohio collegiate cross country coaches, it was announced Feb. 7.

“We had a strong cross country season in the fall, and it’s nice that the coaches in Ohio recognized that fact,” Nguyen said. “The team worked hard and really put together a season that they can be proud of, and these awards just reinforce it.”

Welsh captured first place in three regular-season competitions. The Louisville, Ohio, native hit her personal best at the Bradley Pink Classic, posting a time of 20:36.2 to secure second. Welsh was one second off her personal record at the Mid-American Conference Championship (20:37.9) when she finished second, missing the title by a heartbreaking three seconds, and earning First-Team All-MAC honors.

At the NCAA Division I Great Lakes Regional meet, Welsh took 17th place with an NCAA qualifying time of 20:55.2. She then competed in the NCAA Cross County Championships, finishing 85th with a time of 20:59.1.

Steigerwald had a breakout season, landing second (14:22.8) in the Toledo Opener and fourth (17:47.0) in the Mel Brodt Collegiate Opener. The Gahanna, Ohio, native was the first freshman to cross the finish line at the MAC Championships, posting a personal record of 21:43.4 to finish 19th and earn Freshman of the Year honors from the MAC.

In the NCAA Division I Great Lakes Regional, Steigerwald clocked a time of 22:11.7 to take 80th place.

Nguyen coached the Rockets to three first-place finishes on the season. The Rockets had five top-five regular team finishes. In the post-season the Rockets landed second in the MAC Championships and ninth in the NCAA Regionals. Each week, the Rockets consistently placed runners in the top five at their meets.