Winneconne, Wis. -- University of Lynchburg sophomore Kaitlyn Johnson (Spotsylvania, Va.) made history Saturday, becoming the first Hornet woman to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Division III cross country championships.
Johnson traversed the 6k course at Lake Breeze Golf Club in Winneconne, Wis., in a program-record 21:54.4 to finish 36th in the field.
The top 40 finishers at the national meet are named All-American.
The two Lynchburg men -- senior Tristan Lucy-Speidel (Fort Valley, Va.) and freshman Max Sparks (Canton, Conn.) -- ran 25:54.1 and 25:58.1, respectively, in the 8k championship. Lucy-Speidel placed 151st, while Sparks took 172nd in the 280-man field.
Lynchburg's harriers ran through tough conditions, with wind chills in the low 20s at race time.
"It hurt," Johnson said with a laugh.
But the national-championship atmosphere helped.
"Everywhere you ran, there were swarms of people on both sides of the course," she said. "It was almost like a home stretch for the entire race. It was kind of intimidating for a second … but once you're in the race, it's so easy to feed off that."
The air of it all definitely contributed to Johnson's performance, she said. She stayed in the top 40 throughout the race, going out faster than she felt comfortable and continuing to push herself through the race.
"It was a super gutsy race," Lynchburg head cross country coach Jake Reed said. "We are so proud of her. She went for it and just hung on."
For Johnson, it marks the end of a magical season in which she led the Hornets at every race. She was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference's runner of the year and placed third in the regional meet. Saturday was the second time this season she's set the program record in the 6k.
"I never expected to be at this level, especially when I was a sophomore," Johnson said. "It hasn't even fully sunk in yet, but it's such an honor to be the first one ever."