Short top runners, women’s cross country finish fourth at Dartmouth

Despite missing several top runners, women’s cross country’s strong showing in its first invitational of the year will, with any luck, foreshadow another successful season ahead for the Ephs.

Williams placed fourth out of seven teams in the Dartmouth Invitational held at the Hanover Country Club golf course Saturday morning. Providence won the meet with 34 points, followed by Dartmouth with 55, University of Rhode Island with 83 and Williams with 98.

Williams was not out to win the meet by any means. The Eph strategy was to start conservatively, using the race as a building block.

Nevertheless, Caroline Cretti ’06 placed sixth in a tough field of 92 women, which included runners from national track champions Keene State. Cretti was first for Williams in 19:40, followed by Jenn Campbell ’05 (19:56) and Eve Besant ’04 (20:07).

Katie Marsh ’05 followed those three with a 21:13 finish, and Melody Scheefer ’03 (21:32) rounded out the Ephs’ top five. Close behind was captain Paige McClanahan ’04 (21:41), Mary Iaculli ’06 (21:55), Danner Hickman ’05 (21:58) and Emily Welsh ’05 (22:35).

Assistant Coach Tara Crowley ’00, running unattached, who was the fourth Eph to cross the finish line with a time of 20:41.

Head Coach Pete Farwell was pleased with the results: “We’ve never ran this meet before,” he said. “We were really strong and showed lots of potential for the season.” A summer of diligent training paid off in the great improvements of many of the runners since last year, most notably those seen in Besant, Marsh and Welsh.

The return of Scheefer to the team after a two-year absence is an exciting development for the Ephs, as is the addition of Cretti, who will be a huge asset to the team as Saturday’s outstanding finish shows.

The women themselves were also happy with the meet. “It was a fun, low-key meet on a beautiful day,” McClanahan said. “A lot of people ran really strongly, especially considering it’s so early in the season.”

As they raced, the Ephs were cheered on by about 10 fellow runners, who came to the meet for a workout and to support their teammates, as well as to enjoy a fun weekend with the team.

After the race, the women and men had a picnic together and then hiked 1.5 miles up New Hampshire’s 3,155 foot Mt. Cardigan. At the top, a sweeping 360-degree view of the Connecticut River Valley and surrounding mountains awaited. It was a “great way for us to loosen up and socialize while enjoying the gorgeous scenery,” captain Alicia Andrews ’03 said.

Earlier in the week on Wednesday, the first-years raced against Deerfield Academy, a race which has been a tradition between the two schools for several years. Williams owned the day, 21 to 34, with Mary Iaculli ’06 winning the five-kilometer race in 20:30, followed shortly by Simone Bras ’06 and Andrea Burke ’06, both in 20:38. Dagmara Marston ’06 and Lisetta Shah ’06 completed the Williams squad of five in sixth and seventh place, respectively.

Deerfield coach Wanda Henry said this was the best Williams first-year team she has ever seen, and that was without Cretti and other talented first-years who opted to train instead. Farwell was impressed, especially considering the difficulty of racing midweek in addition to the planned workouts.

Next week, the Ephs will host the Purple Valley Classic here at Williams. A strong field of 12 teams will be here, including Dickinson College from Pennsylvania.