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Port Coquitlam's Olivia Willett collapses near finish line at cross-country nationals

The Riverside Secondary graduate is okay, but Florida's heat and humidity ultimately impacted the final stretch of her collegiate career.
Port Coquitlam's Olivia Willett (right) was unable to finish the 2021 NCAA Div. II women's cross-country championships in Florida despite a highlight-reel senior year.

Olivia Willett laid it all on the line so much today (Nov. 20), her legs likely felt like two spaghetti noodles.

Unfortunately, the Port Coquitlam runner did not finish the 2021 NCAA Div. II cross-country championships after she collapsed a mere 300 metres from the finish line due to the heat and humidity of central Florida.

"So heartbreaking," said Simon Fraser University (SFU) head coach Brit Townsend.

"She was in the top 30 and she was really pushing hard trying to kick and she said her legs just gave out. [...] She couldn't get up. I think it's a combination of the heat, humidity and just giving everything, she possibly had."

The stumble comes weeks after the Riverside Secondary graduate finished second in the women's western championship in Oregon.

Willett's efforts led to SFU claiming its first-ever regional NCAA title, as well as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference banner in October.

Townsend is proud of what the senior was able to accomplish in her final season.

"Olivia has been an incredible leader throughout this season and it is crushing to see her end it this way. But she needs to hold her head up and be incredibly proud of what she has accomplished."

The six-kilometre national championship race took place on Abbey Golf Course in Saint Leo, Fla. with 240 runners in contention.

Willett made it past the five-kilometre split in a time of 17:55.0 before she ultimately fell strides away from the finale.

She would've earned All-American status if she finished in the top 30.

"Our athletes definitely found this course to be our toughest of the season with lots of long grinding hills and incredible competition," explained Townsend.

"The travel was challenging, and of course the heat and humidity of Florida. They were all up and ready at 5:30 this morning eastern time."

The rest of the SFU women's team was able to beat more than half the pack — 16th place out of 34 schools.

The red and white's top racer was senior Alison Andrews-Paul who crossed the finish line in 76th with a time of 21:54.7.

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