‘Year of the Athena’: CMS Women Cap Off The Year With Incredible Run Of National Championships

The CMS women's golf team wear their red and white uniforms as they hold their NCAA Championship trophies.
The CMS women’s golf team poses with their NCAA Championship trophies following their national title win May 11. (Photo courtesy of Damon Herota)

Coming into championship season this spring, the year had already been a successful one for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas. The volleyball team took home a national championship in the fall, while the cross country, golf, lacrosse, softball, tennis, and track and field teams had all clinched SCIAC Championships.

And though this success was promising, it’s hard to believe that anyone could have predicted the run that the Athenas would have in the spring NCAA Championships.

Back on May 11, the women’s golf team started things off for CMS with their first national title in program history, while Margaret Loncki CM ’18 brought home the individual championship.

The Athenas entered the final day of the four-round tournament leading by four strokes over the Williams Ephs. However, the Eps clawed back in the final round, and the two teams were tied at 93+ at the end of regulation.

After tying on the first playoff hole, Loncki hit a clutch 15-foot par putt on the second, forcing a do-or-die putt for Williams’ Holly Davenport. She left her attempt just an inch short of the hole, and the Athenas erupted in celebration, clinching their first NCAA Title.

While the golf team played their championship matches in Florida, the No. 3 Athena tennis team had the luxury of playing their final matches on their home courts in Claremont. However, they faced quite the daunting task entering the tournament.

Their semi-final matchup pitted the Athenas against No. 2 Williams, and if they were to advance, they would find No. 1 Emory Eagles waiting for them in the finals. Dating back to 2008, Emory and Williams had been the only two programs to win the NCAA title, and while CMS had come close a few times, they had never been able to break through the powerhouses. That all changed last Wednesday night.

In the semi-finals, the Ephs took control of the Athenas early. CMS trailed 3-1 after the completion of the first singles match, and desperately needed a comeback. That was exactly what they got, as they rattled off four straight singles wins to knock off the defending national champs 5-3.

As CMS began their match with Emory the following night, it quickly became clear that the heavyweight battle would go down to the wire.

After Emory grabbed a 2-1 lead after the doubles matches, both teams went back and forth, trading blows until Emory led 4-3 with just two matches to play. Catherine Allen SC ’20 and Rebecca Berger CM ’21 would be tasked with bringing home a championship for CMS.

Allen won in straight sets, and it all came down to Berger’s match at No. 5 singles with Emory’s Defne Olcay. With both teams watching nervously and a packed crowd looking on, the CMS first-year from San Francisco showed incredible poise, taking the first set 6-2.

Despite the immense pressure, Berger didn’t fold, and when Olcay’s final shot went long, Berger dropped to the ground in celebration, winning the match 6-2, 6-3, and the championship for CMS 5-4.

The Athena tennis team pose with their National Championship trophy.
The Athena tennis team smiles with their National Championship trophy May 23 at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center. (Photo courtesy of Alisha Alexander)

The victory marked the third CMS team NCAA Championship of the 2017-2018 athletic season, an incredible feat for the program. However, the Athenas’ victories were not over.

The CMS women’s track team boasted a star-studded cast of seniors, and Tyra Abraham SC ’18, Emily Bassett CM ’18, and Bryn McKillop SC ’18 finished out their careers in the right way Saturday.

Competing in the NCAA Championships in LaCrosse, WI, all three Athenas made sure they saved their best for last.

Abraham, a former walk-on, raced in the 200m and 4x100m relay, finishing fourth and eighth respectively. However, her weekend was geared towards her signature event, the 100m dash, an event she won as a sophomore.

Abraham didn’t disappoint, winning the race by a full tenth of a second (11.87), in a remarkable conclusion to her career, as she departs as a two-time national champion.

Bassett, a thrower, delivered an absolutely dominant performance in the hammer throw. Her distance of 62.51m was almost three meters farther than the second-place throw, and it is good for third-farthest in Division III history.

To conclude the day, and bring home the Athenas’ third individual championship, McKillop amazed in the 5000m. She finished in 16:36.17, three seconds ahead of her Sixth Street rival Helen Guo PO ’20, who came in second.

The CMS women's track team pose with their trophies and medals.
Members of the CMS women’s track team, including national champions Tyra Abraham SC ’18, Emily Bassett CM ’18 and Bryn McKillop SC ’18 stand on the podium following the NCAA Championships in LaCrosse, WI. (Photo courtesy of Chris Spells)

Overall, the Athenas finished in fourth at the meet and were able to bring back three more NCAA Championships to Claremont.

The meet put an official finish on the 2017-2018 athletic season, which CMS is now calling the “Year of the Athena.” With seven new NCAA National Championship trophies in Claremont, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting name.

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