FORMER Loreto Dalkey student Fiona McKenna is making waves in the US athletics scene after she cemented her place in Hawaii Pacific (HPU) history with a sixth place finish in the NCAA Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship.
It ties the highest finish of any HPU runner, male or female, in the university’s history. McKenna came in sixth place in the 248 runner field with an outstanding 5.78km time of 21.25, only 20 seconds off of first place.
The course was a gruelling one with the race length shortened due to massive amounts of mud but it did not faze the Dalkey native.
“I knew I had to get out fast because it would be hard to come back in those conditions. I think racing in Ireland for years gave me an advantage in the mud and rain,” said McKenna.
The senior tied HPU Hall of Famer Nina Christensen for the best performance in the school’s history when Christensen came in sixth in 2003. The last HPU runner to qualify for nationals was in 2006.
“This result says a lot about the programme. I didn’t do this by myself. The whole team really helped me get ready, my girls are amazing. Obviously, coach [Jorge] Medina was a big help,” said McKenna.
“She ran the best race of her life when it mattered the most,” said Medina. “All year we knew she was a top 10 calibre runner and she proved it.”
The Ireland native capped an impressive career recently. She was twice the PacWest Runner of the Year and this season earned all-region and All-American honours. After a successful 2013, McKenna stayed in Hawaii all summer to train and improved from 39th at last year’s regionals.
“She did everything I asked of her the past two years. What a great career she had at HPU! I am a proud coach,” said Medina.
Previously, McKenna ran cross country for two seasons at Hawaii Pacific. This year, she has won four of the first five races she competed in and was top three in all.
This includes winning the league championship meet, making her the Pacific West Conference Runner of the Year. She went on to finish fourth at the NCAA Division II West Region championship and then sixth at this national meet.
During this time, she was awarded PacWest runner of the week twice, first team all-PacWest, all-West Region, and All-American.
In 2013, she won two races out of seven with six top 10 finishes. She won the PacWest Conference Race making her PacWest Runner of the Year as well as the Newcomer of the Year.