O'Brien Lead Women's Cross-Country To Fourth In NJAIAW

Female cross-country runner, black jersey, mid-race
Vanessa Saiboo took four minutes off her 6,000-meter personal best at the 2019 NJAIAW Championship. (Steven R. Smith)

GALLOWAY, N.J. – Running for the first time ever while regionally-ranked, the Felician University women's cross-country team placed fourth out of 21 schools at the 2019 New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (NJAIAW) Championship meet, hosted by Stockton University on Saturday morning.

Felician entered the day as the No. 9-ranked team in the NCAA Division II East Region. The Golden Falcons scored 106 points, finishing three points behind their fellow Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) member, the Jefferson Rams, in a notable head-to-head matchup. Jefferson, who ended up in third place, is ranked 10th regionally and has won the last five CACC Championships

The only other schools to top Felician were event champion Ramapo College (67 points) and runner-up California University of Pennsylvania (78). The Golden Falcons were six points better than the host Ospreys, who ran fifth. They finished second out of four CACC schools in attendance.

For the first time since her Felician debut last year, redshirt junior Jillian O'Brien (Bogota, N.J./Bogota) was the Golden Falcons' top performer. On the 6,000-meter course, a kilometer longer than many regular-season races, O'Brien turned in a time of 24 minutes, 52 seconds. She completed a 6K for the first time as a collegian and finished ninth out of 210 entrants on an unseasonably warm day.

Four Golden Falcon runners established non-trivial 6K personal bests, including sophomore Shayla Morales (North Bergen, N.J.), who finished 11th, and junior Vanessa Saiboo (Jersey City, N.J./County Prep) who was 24th.  Morales crossed the finish line in 24:58, and Saiboo cut four minutes off her previous PR with a 25:39. True freshman Ashley Linares (Passaic, N.J./Paramus Catholic) crossed the line in between, registering a time of 25:37 to place 23rd.

Senior captain Jane Burgoye (Glen Rock, N.J./Glen Rock) slipped into the final scoring slot for Felician. She was fifth on the team and 40th overall in 26:14.

Golden Falcon sophomores Hadeel Alshujaieh (Clifton, N.J./Clifton) (49th, 26:25) and Alysson Martinez (Union City, N.J./Union City) (108th, 28:56) also toiled for the fastest, but not first, 6,000-meter races of their college careers.

Felician was competing in the NJAIAW Championship meet for the first time since winning it in 2005.

Ramapo senior Jennifer Polo was the individual champion and the only runner to eclipse 24 minutes, as she broke the tape in 23:40. She was 46 seconds faster than Jefferson junior Kalista Safer.

The Golden Falcons are idle next weekend. They return to action on Oct. 5 at the Highlander Challenge, hosted by New Jersey Institute of Technology at Branch Brook Park in Newark. A new set of regional rankings will be released on Tuesday.