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Junior Ellie Willging joins SXU coach Lisa Ebel for a post-race photo opportunity at the NAIA National Championships
Junior Ellie Willging joins SXU coach Lisa Ebel for a post-race photo opportunity at the NAIA National Championships
CCAC - Sat, Mar. 4, 2017

Johnson City, Tenn. – Shattering her old school record time in the process, Saint Xavier University junior Ellie Willging (Freeport, Ill./UIC/Freeport) accomplished an unprecedented feat for the school's track & field program by becoming a national champion in the 5K (5,000 meters) Saturday afternoon on the final day of the 2017 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships in Johnson City, Tenn.  Willging finished 13 seconds ahead of the next fastest competitor to claim the national title with a school record time of 17:01.94.  Her old record time was 17:24.48 set earlier this season.  The previous best individual finish by a Cougars track & field athlete at either the indoor or outdoor national meet was third place set by former standouts Rachael Dean (3K in 2011) and Ashley Shares (marathon in 2014).  Willging also claimed NAIA All-American recognition for her impressive finish Saturday.   

"Ellie ran an amazing race and I could not be happier for her and her family," said SXU women's track & field coach Lisa Ebel.  "She knew that she was capable of this type of performance, but to go out and execute it flawlessly on a national stage just speaks volumes to the elite type of athlete she is.  What a great day for Saint Xavier University track & field!"

Sophomore Alex Lambros (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) also competed Saturday for the Cougars finishing 18th overall in the triple jump with a distance of 11.00 meters.  In Friday's semifinals race of the 1,000 meter run, senior Nicole Watkins (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) finished in 12th place with a time of 3:01.30.  Junior Sierra Downey (Stickney, Ill./Morton College/Morton West) placed 23rd overall in the 5K in Thursday's semifinals with a time of 18:36.98.