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Mills Races to All-America Honors at NCAA Cross Country Championship

KEENE, N.H. 11/20/09 - What a difference a week makes for Keene State College runner Paige Mills. After falling yards from the finish line and placing second at last week’s New England regional race, the junior from Keene is on top of the world after placing fifth and earning All-America honors at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship in Waverly, Iowa, on Saturday.

“Today was the best day of my running career. I never wanted it to end,” said Mills, who covered the 6K Max Cross Country Course on the campus of Wartburg College in a time of 21:18. “Last week was one of my most frustrating races, and today was the best race of my life.” After a false start, Mills was able to get out to a good start with the leaders. “We went into the race with a plan of running in the top 10, and she stayed with it,” said KSC Coach Peter Thomas.

“It was hectic and loud at the start and it can get to your nerves,” said Mills. “I just tried to zone it out and pretend that all those people were cheering for me.”

Running smoothly and confidently through the first 5K, Mills made a charge in the last 1,000 meters, moving up from eighth to fifth position. “I felt comfortable leading the second pack and just wanted to make sure I had something left at the end,” she said. “It was surreal when I crossed the finish line. I was on top of the world.”

Mills’ fifth-place finish is the best performance by an Owl woman since Mary Proulx placed fourth in 2002. Mills becomes the sixth Keene State woman to earn cross country All-American honors, and the first since Jenn Adams earned the recognition in 2007.

Making her first trip to the national meet, junior Andrea Walsh of Bolton, Conn., placed 78th with a time of 22:15. “I was very happy with my time, considering it was my first race at the NCAAs,” said Walsh. “It was definitely a great experience. Hopefully, I can come back next year and do a little better.”

Seniors Eric MacKnight of Newtown, Conn., and Tim Pipp of Keene came up short in their bid for All-America. MacKnight finished in 91st place, posting a time of 25:24 on the 8K course, while Pipp placed 108th with a time of 25:29.

“They both ran well. They got out and put their nose into it,” said Thomas. “They lost a couple of places and in a race like this 20 seconds is 40 places.”

“Getting All-America would have been the ultimate, but I wasn’t favored to do that,” said Pipp. “I was happy with my race and time, but as a runner, I’ll always want more. I’ll look back on this season knowing I did everything that I could.”

“Tim and I stayed aggressive through the whole race. We never gave up,” said MacKnight. “We went after it, but the end result wasn’t necessarily what we had hoped for. I didn’t reach my ultimate goal, but at the same time it’s going to make me work even harder during the track season.”

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