INDIANAPOLIS - If the women's team placing third at the NCAA Division I National Championships was any indication, 2013 was a good year for Butler cross country. Head coach Matthew Roe also closed out his first full recruiting cycle this year, marking the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.
The women's team started out somewhat strong but finished stronger than has ever been seen in school history. The squad opened the season with a win and a loss at the Bradley Classic double dual but then took third of 28 teams at the Roy Griak Invite just a few weeks later. The varsity squad was then on hiatus again all the way until the Pre-National Meet, where Butler took third again, this time out of 49.
The women then continued their trend, finishing third at the Big East Conference meet. While not winning a title at the Big East Conference Championships snapped the win streak for the women, there was much to cheer about. The squad came in third behind only top-ranked Villanova and Georgetown, and both sides saw some impressive performances: in her first race in a Butler uniform, true freshman Lauren Wood was the fifth and final scorer for Butler, clocking 21:12 for 18th place and All-Conference honors.
Progressing through the season, the women's team itself continued to progress. At the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, the women took second place for their first ever automatic bid to nationals, with a team score of 67. Michigan won the meet with just 48 points.
In one of the last polls before nationals, the women were ranked as high as 7th, the highest in school history. They more than bettered that, with junior Mara Olson, senior Katie Clark, sophomore Olivia Pratt, senior Kirsty Legg, freshmen Lauren Wood and Colleen Weatherford, and junior newcomer Katie Good finishing as the third best team in the entire nation at the DI Championships. Only Providence and Arizona - two historically strong programs - could escape the Bulldogs.
Olson became an All-American at the meet with a 26th-place finish. Clark, already an All-American, missed the bubble by a mere .9 seconds in 41st place. As a team, Butler scored 200 points, just three points behind runner-up Arizona, who scored 197. Providence took the title with 141.
The men's side also fared relatively well, considering the circumstances. Junior Ross Clarke was out all season due to injury, while other bouts hit the team mid-season - for example, Harry Ellis, who sat a few meets due to a calf strain. But despite the setbacks, the men's team was able to pull a few wins and nearly saw an All-American and two national qualifiers this season, outside of trying to qualify for nationals as a team.
Opening the season, the men also split their first meet with one loss and one win. The men took home the team title from the UW Parkside Midwest Collegiate meet the following week. At the Notre Dame Invite - which saw Butler's varsity men but not women - the squad dipped a bit, placing seventeenth of 27 teams on the course that day, before taking home an impressive eleventh from Pre-Nats.
As with the women, the men's extensive (in this case, 15-year-long) win streak at the conference championships was snapped at the Big East Championships after taking third place as a team, but it certainly didn't happen without some impressive performances. The men's team scored 61 points in their first Big East race, behind only nationally-ranked Villanova - who won the meet with 36 points - and Providence, who took runner-up honors with 49.
At the Great Lakes Regional, the men missed the cut, placing sixth of 31 squads at the meet. Indiana, who placed third with 75 just behind Notre Dame and Wisconsin, took the last at-large spot. Butler was sixth with 163, behind Michigan State's 151.
With 38 individuals also being added to the list of 31 teams competing at nationals, junior Tom Curr also received an at-large bid to the meet, knocking teammate Erik Peterson out of the running by just one spot at the regional championship. Like Clark, Curr placed 41st at the national meet, just one place - and one second - off All-America honors.
The end of this season also saw the end of an era, as Coach Roe said goodbye to the last of his first full recruiting class on the women's side. Check out the video for Roe and Katie Clark's comments on BUXC and the departure HERE.