The women’s track team capped off a remarkable season with an exciting second place finish at Division III New Englands at Bowdoin College on Saturday. The Ephs finished with 127 points, only 18 points behind Wheaton College (145 points). Wheaton is the defending national champion. Williams was far ahead of the rest of the competition, with Tufts (82 points), Bowdoin (68 points), and MIT (59 points) rounding out the top five teams. The Ephs even led Wheaton by two points with five events left.
“It was the strongest team performance ever by a Williams team,” stated assistant coach Kristen Morwick. “We have a much more balanced team than Wheaton, with people in all events [not just sprints and jumps], and everybody contributed to our performance.”
Williams overcame an 11-hour bus ride on Friday, arriving at their hotel five and a half hours later than planned. “People were really tired from Friday,” said Morwick, “but we pulled through anyway.” The Ephs did more than just pull through; they attained five individual New England championships, as well as one relay championship.
First-year Rita Forte led the Ephs with two individual championships, winning both the 55-meter high hurdles and the long jump. Forte had to advance through two trial heats to make it to the finals of the hurdles, where she won with a time of 8.28 seconds. Forte’s time was not only a school record, a meet record, and a field house record, but also qualified her automatically for the NCAA championships in March.
Forte went on the capture the long jump with a jump of 17’6.25″. “Rita’s wins were huge for us,” state Morwick. “Wheaton was seeded first in both those events, so Rita pulled two huge upsets.”
Williams also received another first place finish from sophomore Katie Worth in the 800. Worth, an All-American last year in this event, missed some training while studying abroad over winter study, but her time of 2:17.18 was fast enough to qualify her provisionally for Nationals.
Another huge win came in the 3000-meter run. Senior Rebecca Atkinson came from behind with two laps to go to beat Barb Swallow of Springfield with a time of 10:20.94, and indoor PR. “I felt really strong during my race,” said Atkinson. “I knew that if I paced myself well I could take her [Swallow] at the end.” Atkinson’s time qualifies her for Division I New Englands. There is no 3000-meter run at NCAA’s.
Atkinson was followed in the 3000 (the Ephs’ highest scoring event) by teammate Lauren Krisko ’00, who ran a strong race to finish third in 10:28.27. Joey Shapiro ’01, who was almost placed in the slower heat, placed eighth. Eight places scored on Saturday. The other distance events also saw strong performances by Williams women. Senior co-captain Tara Crowley finished second in the 1500-meter run (4:39.06), qualifying automatically for Nationals. She was followed by teammate Jonnie Vasse ’02, who finished fourth with a time of 4:51.43, a personal best.
Crowley then recovered from her grueling 1500 to run the 1000-meter run. She finished third in 3:02.00. “Tara’s race was just incredible considering it was her second race of the day,” commented Morwick. Crowley was not alone in the 1000; Katie Sharff ’02 finished a strong second with a time of 3:01.63, a personal best.
First-year Colleen Doody also had a very strong day. In her first race, she finished second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.29, less than two tenths of a second off of qualifying automatically for NCAA’s. Doody’s time is a new school record. “I felt pretty good in my race,” said Doody. “I knew Deshawnda Williams [of Wheaton] would really push me to run a good time.” Doody then went on to place fifth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 26.97 seconds.
Another key performance came from Janna Rearick ’02 in the 600-meter race.
Rearick came from the slower heat to run a 1:39.91, good enough for fourth place.
In the field events, Williams crowned another individual champion in the shot put. First-year Healy Thompson won with a throw of 42’2.25″, a new meet record. “I was very pleased with my placing in the meet, but I was less than happy with my distance,” said Thompson. “As far as getting points for the team, all that really mattered was my place, but as we get closer to nationals, the distance matters more and more.” Teammate Diane Williams ’02 finished third with a throw of 40’10.50″, less than an inch off second place.
Williams also received points from three of their four relay teams. The 4×800 team of Worth, Sharff, Vasse, and Crowley captured first place in 9:33.30. Their time was a new meet record and also a new field house record. In Crowley’s third distance race of the day, she anchored with a blistering split of 2:18. “I felt better my second two races because my first race I was still tired from the bus ride,” explained Crowley. “I was excited to go out and run for the team, because I knew we needed the points.”
The Ephs’ 4×400 team finished third with a time of 4:02.85, just three tenths of a second off of qualifying provisionally for NCAA’s. The team, consisting of co-captain Melissa Murphy ’00, Janna Rearick ’02, Olma Fuentes ’03, and Doody, ran their best time this season.
In the 4×200-meter relay, Murphy, Fuentes, Maggie Popkin ’03, and Johanna Heinrichs ’02, ran a 1:52.08 out of the slow heat to finish fifth overall.
“This was the most incredible team performance I’ve seen from our track team ever, with all the PR’s, the national qualifiers, the New England champions, and the incredible spirit,” stated Crowley. “I love this team.”
Sharff echoed her sentiments. “We’ve been priming for this meet all season. The energy and spirit led everyone to great performances. Wheaton was scared.”