The Furman women’s cross country team is ranked #18 nationally and #3 in the NCAA Southeast Region, according to the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) polls.

The Paladins, #30 in the preseason national rankings, started their season with a victory at the Eye Opener in Spartanburg, S.C., where they secured first place with 25 points in the 5K race. Clemson finished as the runner-up with 58 points, followed by Liberty and South Carolina respectively with 82 and 83 points.

Following their impressive season-opener, the Furman women’s cross country team returned to Greenville and clinched the team title at the Furman Invitational on Sept. 16, Saturday. The Dins ran as a pack and emerged victorious with 25 points. SEC foe Tennessee placed second with 42 points, and Clemson claimed third place with 80 points.

“Our women really ran a great pace keying off of each other,” said Furman head coach Robert Gary.

Despite the triumph at the Furman Invitational, the Paladins were not ranked in the National Coaches’ Division I Poll for the first two weeks of the season. The rankings, however, took a turn in favor of Furman after the 44th annual Sean Earl Loyola Lakefront Invitational. The Paladin women captured the team title at the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago on Sept. 29, Friday. They accumulated 58 points to claim the top spot, surpassing #25 Ole Miss and #17 Wisconsin.

Pacing Furman in the 6K race, sophomore Carly Wilkes crossed the finish line at 20:00.7. Junior Kaylie Armitage followed Wilkes in seventh place at 20:02.2. Senior Bethany Graham secured 11th place with a time of 20:06.6, while senior Abigail Robertson clocked in at 20:12.2 to finish 16th. Junior Sierra Bower was the final scorer for Furman, posting a time of 20:19.5 for 19th place.

In NCAA cross country, five runners are scored for the title competition, but teams have more runners on the track.

Sophomore Jenna Mulhern claimed 24th place with a time of 20:26.4. Senior Nicole Matysik followed her teammate at 20:34.5, finishing 32nd. Senior Emily Little crossed the finishing line at 21:06.9, finishing 61st. Another senior, Megan Marvin, recorded a time of 21:18.3 for 72nd place.

This meet marked the third consecutive victory for the Paladin women and secured the team the ranking of #18 in the nation.

USTFCCCA Regional Cross Country Rankings are determined based on the subjective assessment of a member coach in each region. The regional representatives are entrusted to weigh team strength with current-season results to predict team finishes at the NCAA Regional Championships.

“Our women ruled the day, beating several ranked teams and picking up some great potential NCAA points,” said coach Gary after the meet. “We are especially excited for Carly Wilkes leading the Girlgang finishers!”

Looking ahead, the Furman cross country teams will compete at the Royals Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 6 and the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin on Oct. 13.