JOPLIN, Mo. – In one of the closest finishes in NCAA history, University of Mary sophomore Alexis Zeis claimed the 2015 NCAA women’s cross country championship in a blink of an eye. With a sprint to the finish line, the Bismarck N.D., native captured the title by .3 seconds.

Making their first NCAA championship appearance as a team since 2012, the Marauders placed 12th in the nation. Ranked 13th in the national rankings entering the race, University of Mary only finished behind eighth place University of Minnesota Duluth among Northern Sun teams and Central Region competition. Adams State won the team title with Grand Valley State in second.

Running towards the front of the pack for the full 6,000 meters, Zeis and Kendra Foley of Grand Valley State University battled for the top slot down the chute. Zeis broke in front and kept Foley on her back shoulder across the finish line.

Here, University of Mary sophomore Alexis Zeis, Bismarck, sprints to the finish line to claim the 2015 NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship in Joplin, Missouri.

Here, University of Mary sophomore Alexis Zeis, Bismarck, sprints to the finish line to claim the 2015 NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship in Joplin, Missouri.

Despite overnight rain and mid-30 degree temperatures that was colder than anticipated, Zeis posted one of the faster times at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course on the campus of host Missouri Southern State University with a near-course clocking of 20:03.4. Foley was right behind at 20:03.7.

University of Mary's Alexis Zeis raises her NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship trophy

University of Mary’s Alexis Zeis raises her NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship trophy

Zeis, who placed 21st last season as a freshman at the national championships, is the second University of Mary NCAA cross country champion in three years. Jennifer Agnew won the 2013 title but in different fashion, winning by over 11 seconds.

The win caps a perfect season for Zeis, who won all five of her races this season, including a conference and regional championship.

A strong team effort allowed the Marauders to edge fellow NSIC member Augustana for 12th place. Competing without a senior on the squad, Mary recorded 351 points to 352 for Augie.

Running in her first NCAA championship, same as the whole Marauders team except for Zeis, sophomore Kaycie Stewart (Corvallis, Mont.) placed 74th overall, covering the course in 21:59.4. As she has been all year, freshman Jaiden Schuette (Bismarck, N.D.) was right behind in 77th with a time of 22:00.6. Junior Katelynn Engh (Maddock, N.D.) cracked the top 100 with her time of 22:12.2 claiming 98th in the nation. Rounding out the scoring for U-Mary was freshman Jackie Harmon. The Fargo, N.D., native ran the course in 22:54.6 to place 173rd.

Also running for Mary were juniors Kennedy Robbins (Billings, Mont.) and Chelsea Bennis. Robbins placed 178th in 22:57.6 and Bennis was 198th with a clocking of 23:16.6.

Zeis’s championship is the fifth NCAA title for the University of Mary. The Marauders women’s distance medley team won the 2013 NCAA indoor championship, Melissa Agnew captured 2013 mile run at the indoor championships and 2013 1,500 meter run at the 2013 outdoor championships and Jennifer Agnew won the 2013 cross country title.

The Marauders 12th place finish this year is their third best mark at the NCAA championships. University of Mary placed 5th in 2011, 11th in 2010, 13th in 2012 and 18th in 2009.