The University of San Francisco women’s cross country team has been picked to finish in a tie for first place in the West Coast Conference, the league announced on Tuesday.
The Dons — picked to tie with BYU — took home five first-place votes from the conference coaches, and 77 total points, as did the Cougars.
Last year, the Dons were picked to finish second, but went on to take not only the WCC title, but also a second-place finish in the West Coast Region Championship, and a second place finish at the NCAA Championships.
San Francisco is led by a pair of European products: Redshirt senior Lizzie Bird and junior Tatjana Schulte.
Bird, named All-West Coast Conference in 2017, is a British import — a native of St. Albans, England — who came to the Dons in the fall of 2017 by way of Princeton, where she took a degree in politics.
Bird, a preseason selection for the All-WCC team, was a four-time NCAA regional qualifier in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at Princeton, and a 2015 honorable mention All-American. While with the Tigers, she raced twice in the NCAA cross country championships and won four individual Ivy League titles in the steeplechase (2015, 2017), the 4×800 meters (2017) and cross country (2015).
Schulte, hailing from Büren, Germany, was named to the 2018 All-WCC Women’s Cross Country preseason team, as was Bird. Schulte was an NCAA semifinalist in the 5,000 meters in the spring of 2017, an All-WCC cross country selection last fall and was WCC All-Academic for cross country in 2016 and 2017.
Last fall, Schulte raced in all six meets, taking 12th in the Roy Griak Invitational. At the WCC meet, she finished 10th with a time of 20:22.4. At the NCAA West Regionals, she finished 31st with a time of 20:27.18 to help lift the Dons to the program’s highest-ever finish at the Regionals. Her 129th-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 20:57 helped San Francisco earn its way to a program-best runner-up finish.
Portland was picked to finish third with 62 points, followed by Loyola Marymount with 58 points, Gonzaga in fifth with 47 points, San Diego in sixth with 42 points. Pacific and Saint Mary’s tied for seventh with 27 points, followed by Santa Clara with 24 points and Pepperdine with nine points.
The Dons begin their 2018 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 1 when they host the 26th USF Cross Country Invitational at Golden Gate Park.