VANCOUVER, Wash. — Rocky Mountain College's Sydney Little Light placed second overall in the women's 5,000-meter competition at the NAIA Cross Country Championships on Friday.
Little Light finished with a time of 18:16:8, less than two seconds off the pace of champion Alyssa Baerzi of Milligan University (Tennessee). Becca Richtman of Montana Tech placed fourth in 18:23.2.
Little Light, a graduate of Hardin High School, placed 37th at last year's cross country championships, so her performance on Friday had her feeling ecstatic afterward.
"I'd been saying that I was shooting for top 15 all week, so it honestly blows my mind. It still does not feel real right now," Little Light told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com during a phone interview. "I just know that I put in a lot of work over the summer and during the season, so I'm just very proud of how far I've come."
Little Light said she started out in 20th place on "a very muddy, hilly course" before she came into stride with Richtman. Little Light said she and Richtman, who placed third at the 2020 championships, then ran together for about a mile when they found themselves among the leaders.
"We were coming up to the finish — we were probably about 800 meters away — when (Richtman) said, 'Just go.' That's when I made my final move."
Little Light has another year of cross country eligibility remaining for next season.
Richtman, a senior, won an NAIA national championship in the women's steeplechase last spring in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Eireann O'Connor of Montana Western placed 12th with a time of 18:39.5, while Carroll's Reghan Worley placed 33rd at 18:54.1.
Milligan won the women's national team title with 122 points. Montana Tech placed 11th with 417 points, while Carroll was 16th with 467 points and Rocky was 24th with 571 points.
In the men's 8,000-meter race, Rocky's Jackson Wilson placed 62nd overall with a time of 26:19.6.
Milligan won the men's title with 115 total points, and Carroll placed 26th with 746 points.
Other men's finishers included Montana Western's Luke Lutz (141st, 27:05.3), Carroll's Spencer Swaim (146th, 27:07.7), Aidan Jarvis (174th, 27:22.2) and Zach Rector (186th, 27:28.9), MSU-Northern's Field Soosloff (211th, 27:40.9), Carroll's Jonah Fisher (212th, 27:41.4), Patrick Keeley (220th, 27:46.9) and Van Gottwalls (246th, 28:04.8), Rocky's Jackson Duffey (232nd, 27:53.9) and Carroll's Mark Richter (298th, 28:56.3).
Other women's finishers included Montana Tech's Hailey Nielson (55th, 19:15.0), Rocky's Sarah Paquet (60th, 19:17.4), Carroll's Andria Mourich (86th, 19:32.3), Montana Tech's Averi Parker (103rd, 19:40.0), Carroll's Natalie Yocum (106th, 19:41.5), Rocky's Mei-Li Stevens (157th, 19:59.1), Montana Tech's Carlin Manning (169th, 20:07.6), Carroll's Hannah Ziegenhagen (200th, 20:26.1) and Katelyn McKay (203rd, 20:28.3), Montana Tech's Lexi Ladoux (231st, 20:40.1), UM Western's Mason Baseley (238th, 20:44.5), Montana Tech's Karolyna Buck (244th, 20:47.3), Carroll's Elly Machado (247th, 20:47.8), Rocky's Larissa Saarel (252nd, 20:51.4), Carroll's Madison Harmer (271st, 21:05.1), Montana Tech's Madison Kelly (278th, 21:09.9), and Rocky's Chloe Bryntesen (304th, 21:52.7), Marion Hugs (312th, 22:10.6) and Crystallaina White (330th, 24:23.0).