JOPLIN, Mo. – Former Bret Harte High runner Sara Mikesell turned in arguably the greatest individual effort in the history of the Chico State women’s cross country program, and without a doubt the most surprising, at the NCAA Division II Championships Saturday.

Mikesell, a junior who was left off Chico State’s roster for last year’s NCAA Champion-ships, finished 14th overall, cementing herself atop the school’s list of all-time best NCAA Championship finishers. Mikesell matched Jill Symons, who also finished 14th back in 1979.

Mikesell’s individual performance helped the Wildcats score a second straight fifth-place team, marking the 10th straight season they’ve finished among the nation’s top 10.

“When I was considering Chico State I imagined how awesome it would be to accomplish what some of the women in this program have accomplished,” said Mikesell over a post-race bowl of Clam Chowder. “To be on that list now with those women I look up to and admire is really amazing.”

A Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV individual champion in her senior season at Bret Harte (2008), Mikesell ran alongside teammate Amy Schnittger in 45th place at the midway point of the race. But when most of the field was trying to survive to the finish, Mikesell turned on the jets and moved up 31 places over the final 3 kilometers.

“I knew it was going to hurt so I just embraced the pain,” said Mikesell. “My goal was to be top 40 so I knew I had to make up some ground. I put it all out there.”

Mikesell earned all-American honors for placing in the top 40. She’s the 17th all-American in the history of the Chico State program and 10th in the past six years.

“She continues to amaze me,” Chico State coach Gary Towne said.

“A year ago she was arguably our number nine or 10 runner – at best eight. She just ran a very mature race. She locked into a good solid rhythm and held that throughout.”