Saturday, October 30 proved to be a sunny and unusually warm day at Hamilton College, the site of the Women’s Cross Country NESCACs race. Williams faced ten competitors in the New England Conference including their biggest rival, Middlebury. This week all of the top runners were back with the team, healthy and injury free, and had a very successful race.
Although Middlebury won overall with a score of 45, Williams came up a close second with a score of 62. This is an impressive closure of the gap between the two schools, as last year in the very same race Middlebury had a 28 point lead over Williams. Another indication of the continual improvement of the Ephs is that Amherst (who won the Little Three title the previous weekend) was third on Saturday with a score of 107.
Senior captain Tara Crowley was very encouraged by the team’s finish at NESCACs, saying, “it was a great meet. We placed three people in the top 14 (All NESCAC), as compared to last year when we only had one. In addition, we were closer to Middlebury than we were last year. And last year, after losing to Middlebury at NESCACs, we went on to win New Englands. We’re hoping for a similar occurrence this year. Also in terms of Middlebury and other teams as well, we were a lot stronger this week than in past races.”
Sophomore Jessica Johnson of Middlebury finished far ahead of the pack of runners in a time of 17:36 on the 5K course. First for the Ephs was junior Courtney Bennigson, placing fourth with 18:09. Williams’ second pack of girls included Crowley in 11th place, first-year Melody Scheefer right behind her in 12th place and senior Rebecca Atkinson in 15th with an impressive kick in the chute to finish ahead of Middlebury’s fourth runner. Their times were 18:27, 18:31 and 18:37, respectively.
Rounding out the top seven were junior Lauren Wiener (20th), junior Sandra DiPillo (23rd) and sophomore Katie Sharff (25th) in times of 18:48, 18:56 and 19:00, respectively. Williams ran 12 of its top runners in the varsity race, while the rest of the team competed in an alumni/open race im- mediately after. Coach Kristen Morwick has taken a different strategy into the team’s training this season, and senior captain Deb Frisone comments optimistically on its results.
“We took a different approach this year and it’s finally panning out,” Frisone said. “We started out with a training regimen and an attitude that was definitely more relaxed than in years past. Our racing at the beginning of the season reflected that attitude, but as we’ve entered into post-season competition, we’ve stepped it up a notch. All of us have been working our hardest and looking towards the end of the season with serious goals.
“Each week we are looking stronger and stronger. This year’s plan has taken some serious patience but seems to be working…each week our team is looking stronger and stronger. That progress was definitely reflected in the way we raced yesterday. Sure, Middlebury beat us, but they have been putting their all into every race thus far. We are just warming up.”
Williams will have an opportunity for continued success and improvement next weekend when it travels to Tufts in Boston. There the Ephs will challenge an even larger number of competitors at the ECAC Championship.