RV’s Alicia Belko, Moorestown’s Natalie Cooper on their way to NCAA Women’s XC Nationals!!!!!

Rancocas Valley graduate Alicia Belko of Stockton University and Moorestown graduate Natalie Cooper of The College of New Jersey, former BCSL Liberty Division rivals, both placed among the top six runners Saturday at the NCAA Division 3 Atlantic Region Cross Country Championships, earning automatic berths in next weekend’s national championships.

Cooper will be accompanied by the full TCNJ team, which earned an at-large bid to nationals after placing fifth out of 41 teams at Regionals.

Belko, a senior, placed third out of 285 runners with a time of 21:45 on the 6,000-meter Field of Dreams course at Haughton (N.Y.) College and Cooper, a junior, placed sixth in 21:57.

Junior Maddy Tattory from Delran was TCNJ’s No. 2 runner Saturday, in 24th in 22:45, with Monmouth Regional grad Gabby DeVito just eight seconds back in 32nd. Juniors Erin Holzbauer of Robbinsville [56th in 23:30] and Abigail Faith of Freehold [65th in 23:40] also scored for the Lions. DeVito was the third freshman across the line.

Also racing for TCNJ were juniors Emma Bean of Mainland Regional [109th in 24:25] and Olivia Shenkman of Smithown High in Nesconset, N.Y. [129th in 24:39].

Only the top two teams earn automatic bids, but TCNJ was selected as one of 16 at-large schools – two from each of eight regions. The top seven finishers whose teams didn’t qualify automatically earn auto individual bids.

This is TCNJ’s first trip to nationals since 2013.

The NCAA Division 3 championships are scheduled for Saturday at the North Farm Facility at Principia College in Elsah, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

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