Butler freshman Lauren Wood, selected to compete for team USA at the 25th Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country race in Edinburgh, Scotland, wound up as the top finisher from the United States in the international race held on Saturday, January 11.
The team, selected by USA Track & Field, was composed of 30 athletes, with Wood being one of only six junior athletes chosen to compete. To qualify for the junior team, an athlete must not turn 20 in 2014.
Opening her first cross country season as a Bulldog at the Big East Conference Championships last fall, Wood earned All-Conference recognition with an 18th place finish at the meet, in which Butler placed third behind nationally-ranked Georgetown and Providence. She then finished as the third scorer for Butler and placed 15th overall in the Great Lakes regional, helping the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish and the first auto bid in school history to the NCAA national meet.
Wood closed out her freshman campaign by finishing 88th overall at the NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championship with a time of 21:15.5.
Being a top finisher for her age group, Wood was then selected by USA Track & Field to run for Team USA at the meet in Scotland.
"I don't want to say I felt pressured," Wood said, "but I wanted to represent my country and the United States as well as I could. I was so honored to be selected."
The race, which was run for the first time in 1988, is held at Holyrood Park and features a 5K race for the men, a 4k race for the women, and an open race. The course includes everything from muddy hills to rocky rivers, through which Wood said she enjoyed racing.
"It was basically true cross country," she said, "fun and interesting."
The main difference was that the race was somewhat shorter as compared to the normal 5k and 6k races Wood is used to.
"It was good to get a shorter race at a faster pace in to prepare me for track, though," she said.
The 4k race Wood ran was actually a 2k loop that the women ran twice. Despite the mix of athletes from all around the U.S., Wood says they went into the race with a plan.
"All the other USA girls and I talked before the race and decided to play it conservatively for the first lap," and to run somewhat together, she said. The second lap was her time to shine. "I felt good and I tried to finish really strong."
And that she did. Wood, although she noted that the course wasn't exactly designed for personal records, clocked a stellar 14:24 for a 6th place finish at the prestigious international meet.
"It was such an amazing experience," she said.
Wood, just 18 years young, was the top American junior.
"We are excited about Lauren's run," said head cross country and track coach Matt Roe. "She has a bright future representing Butler and Team USA."
Wood and Butler return to the track this weekend at the Illini Classic, to be held January 17th and 18th.
Contact: Bethany Werge (firstname.lastname@example.org)