Women’s cross country qualified for the Division III NCAA Championships on Saturday. With slightly cool temperatures and an overcast sky, the Lady Ephs’ top seven battled their way to an impressive second place finish at Saturday’s 2001 Division III New England Regional Championship.
Hosted by Westfield State College, the meet featured a flat course which proved how fast it can be during the women’s race.
In what head coach Pete Farwell called “the best race of the year for the team,” the Williams women tallied 76 points, falling just short of Middlebury’s 65 points in the race.
The top four teams at Regionals earn the chance to compete in next weekend’s NCAA Championship meet held at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Completing the top four on Saturday were Amherst in third with 86 points and Brandeis in fourth with 163 points.
Leading the Williams force were co-captain Julia Bensen ’03 and Jenn Campell ’05, who kicked side-by-side in the last 200 meters to cross the line together and share the win.
The race was led for the first four kilometers by Keene State’s Mary Proulx who ended up finishing third in 17:26. While Proulx was able to set the pace for a good portion of the race, she was unable to fight-off the kicks of Bensen and Campell who powered to an impressive 17:24, the fastest time in history for a Williams woman and a new course record.
Bensen and Campell were also the first Williams runners to finish first and second at New Englands in the school’s history and Saturday was only the third time an Eph was the champion.
In addition to the spectacular performances of Bensen and Campell, the other five women brought their racing to another level to help lift the team to their second place finish.
The third finisher for Williams was co-captain Katie Sharff ’02, who ran a personal best time of 18:09 and took 16th place. Sharff’s impressive 5:33 first mile helped to pull the next four Williams’ women along.
The number four finisher for Williams was Eve Besant ’04, who had, according to Farwell, “a breakthrough race.” Farwell noted that “adding a kick next weekend will really make Eve a big factor.”
Right behind Besant was Jonnie Vasse ’02, who battled an injury early in the season, but has returned as one of the core contributors to the Williams force. Farwell calls Vasse “a great big meet runner who is extremely focused on NCAAs.”
All five of the scoring finishers for the Ephs earned all-Division III New England honors for their efforts on Saturday.
Finishing as the sixth Eph and one spot away from all-Division III honors was Paige McClanahan ’04 who ran a personal best time of 18:45 to claim 36th place. McClanahan’s time was almost three minutes faster than she ran during last year’s season and a huge 32-second improvement from two weeks ago.
Rounding out the Williams effort was Ann Schorling ’03, who ran a gutsy race in an impressive time of 18:58, despite battling a mysterious stomach ailment. In addition to the seven women who competed on Saturday, the team was joined by two alternates, co-captain Terri O’Brien ’02 and Katie Davisson ’05.
Farwell’s outlook after Saturday’s race was positive: “The team is ready and psyched for next week,” he said. “It is one more level to move up and it will be fun.”
Following Saturday’s race, the women were excited about the next challenge that lies ahead of them. The eight women (seven runners and one alternate) will depart on Thursday to travel to Rock Island, Ill. where they will step on the line for the last time this season to battle with the top teams in the nation for the chance to claim a national championship.