A four-year member of the Gettysburg College women’s cross country team, Elizabeth Hilfrank ’18 had a tremendous career wearing the orange and blue. It was during her senior campaign in 2017 where she turned in one of the top seasons in school history by a women’s cross country runner, which concluded by earning All-America honors at the NCAA Division III Championship.
Hilfrank opened the season with six outstanding races, which was capped by capturing three consecutive victories at Delaware Valley, Paul Short Run, and the Gettysburg Invitational heading into the Centennial Conference (CC) Championship.
She earned her first All-Centennial Conference award by placing fourth at the championship meet with a time of 21:55 in the 6,000-meter Gettysburg course. Hilfrank then gained her second consecutive all-region laurels at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional race with a 10th place showing, which automatically qualified her to compete in the NCAA Division III Championship.
She wasn’t the only cross country runner to represent the Bullets on the national stage. Teammate Sarah Rinehart ’19learned the day after the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional that she would join Hilfrank to compete at nationals in Elsah, Ill.
“Sarah had worked so hard all season. I had a feeling she would get in,” said Hilfrank. “Just knowing that we could continue to train together especially in that week or two between regionals and nationals was great and reassuring.”
The duo did not change anything about their race day routine for nationals, which was held on Nov. 18, 2017, at Principia College. It was exactly the same as during the regular season from warming up to drills.
“It was just another race in our minds; we didn’t want to psych ourselves out with nationals,” noted Hilfrank.
Hilfrank and Rinehart ran the predominately flat course with some rolling hills on a cold 40-degree day that included 30 mile an hour winds on wet grass as it had rained the morning of the race.
The start of the race was unusual as one gun went off while the other did not, creating a false start.
“Sarah and I started way in the back, pretty much dead last. We had to overcome a lot of space.”
The pair certainly worked their way towards the front of the pack as Hilfrank moved into 35th, running a 5:56 pace, while Rinehart clocked in 6:13 and held 97th at the third mile marker.
In the final 0.73 miles, Hilfrank closed out exceptionally well, running a 4:03, or 5:33 mile pace, while Rinehart blazed 3:56 (5:23 mile pace) on the downhill and flat final 600 meters.
Hilfrank placed 40th among 279 runners, claiming the final All-America spot. She blazed the 6,000-meter two-loop course in 21:37, which was a PR time by 15 seconds. It also marked the fastest 6K time in program history by nearly eight seconds.
Rinehart finished 74th with a 22:02 time while recording her fifth consecutive PR. Her time ranks as the seventh-fastest 6K in school history.
When Hilfrank crossed the finish line, she did not immediately know she was an All-American until the awards ceremony after the race.
“It was a great feeling to walk up to the stage to receive the medal,” noted Hilfrank. “I was definitely not expecting to in the race or right afterward. This race was one of the most memorable moments of my life.”
Hilfrank became the first cross country All-American since Bill Gray ’96 was 33rd in 1994. She joins Martha Orem ’84 and Sue Fetherolf ’81 as the only women’s cross country All-Americans in program history.
She ended her career as one of the most decorated long-distance runners in school history. In her final season as a member of both the cross country and track and field teams, Hilfrank was named to the Google Cloud CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team, becoming just the second student-athlete from the women’s cross country/track and field programs to earn the honor. Hilfrank was also named CC Scholar Athlete of the Year in cross country, Academic All-District First Team, and was selected as the CC nominee for the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year.
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This story was originally posted on the Gettysburg College Website.