Women’s cross country notches easy Invite victory

Women’s Cross Country inaugurated the Plansky Invitational’s new 6K course in fine style this weekend, cruising to an easy victory on a blustery October afternoon at Mt. Greylock High School. The triumph came over a wide array of Division III rivals, many of whom the Ephs rarely face in competition.

Williams triumphed with 19 points, out of sight of second-place Haverford College of Pennsylvania, who had 64. Connecticut College placed third with 79 points. Benley College was fourth with 116, Rensselaer Polytechnic of Troy, New York was fifth with 148 points, and UMass Lowell was sixth with 180

Notwithstanding Coach Pete Farwell’s suggestion to use the race as a tempo workout, Williams’ top runners Julia Bensen ’03, Jenn Campbell ’05, and Caroline Cretti ’03 crossed the finish line nearly one minute ahead of their fastest opponent, Sarah Lamoy of Haverford (23:28). Bensen, Campbell, and Cretti finished holding hands in a three-way tie for first in 22:36. Michelle Rorke ’06 was just behind the trio, finishing fourth in 22:50.

Soon following for the Ephs were Melody Scheefer ’03 and Kali Moody ’05 in 24:24, also finishing together in ninth and tenth spots. For their teamwork, Scheefer and Moody will this week share The Moose, the women’s stuffed mascot awarded after every race for the most inspirational showing. For her part, Scheefer was unpretentious when asked about her performance, repeating, “All I can say is that Jenn Campbell is hot stuff.”

Ann Schorling ’03 was seventh for the Ephs (24:35) and in taking 15th place, ensured that each of Williams’ top seven runners were honored at the post-race awards ceremony. The prize was an orange Plansky Invite “Top 15 Finisher” T-shirt. Shorling was not so modest in her post-race thoughts, saying, “I’m really proud of us for spanking all the other teams.”

Williams’ second set of seven would have come in fifth place had they been scored as a separate team, a statistic that illustrates the depth of the women’s program. Katie Davisson ’05 led this group, taking 19th place in 24:43. Mary Iaculli ’06 followed her in 20th (24:58), Danner Hickman ’05 was 24th (25:10), Rachel Samuelson ’04 39th (25:55) and Emily Welsh ’05 45th (26:08). Jasmine Mitchell ’03, coming in 47th with a time of 26:30, performed admirably in her first race of the season, as did Lisetta Shah ’06 who improved upon her previous 6K time and placed 51st in 26:43.

Farwell and Assistant Coach Tara Crowley ’00 were proud of the team, especially for packing up and working together so well. “Racing alongside a teammate really takes some of the pressure off,” Crowley said. “You can move up together and encourage each other, and you know you’re not alone out there.”

“This was a less intense meet for us,” Farwell said. “We just came off a big meet at Franklin Park, we had a high-volume week of training, and we’re focusing ahead on championship season. We did a great job of working in packs and cruising comfortably, and we had a great result.”

The women seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. Most of the Ephs finished smiling and happy, despite the cold, damp, and windy conditions. “I found that singing “Against the Wind” to myself was very helpful,” Samuelson said.

Looking back, the weather conditions were very similar on October 11th, when Williams competed at the Division I New England Championships held at Franklin Park in Boston. There, the Ephs pulled off an incredible second-place finish. Out of 42 teams from all divisions, only Division I powerhouse Boston College topped Williams. Williams had 97 points to BC’s 70, and was safely ahead of Brown (115) and Dartmouth (160). They were 64 points ahead of rival Middlebury, who came in 5th with 161.

“This was an amazing meet for us,” said Crowley. “It’s by far the best we’ve ever done at New England’s. Our best finish before was sixth.”

First-years Cretti and Rorke, placing first and third respectively for Williams, were definitely a big factor in this year’s boost in standings. Cretti placed fourth overall in the massive field of 282 runners, recording a very fast time of 17:18. Bensen was ninth in 17:44, just in front of Rorke, who had moved up steadily during the race to finish tenth in 17:47. Campbell claimed the 15th spot in 17:53, as both she and Bensen improved their times from last year’s race by about 40 seconds.

The fifth scorer for the Ephs was Katie Marsh ’05, who came in a minute later in 61st place with a time of 18:52. Moody was sixth for the Ephs in her varsity debut, placing 82nd in 19:06. Scheefer took 110th in 19:24.

Great performances were also seen at the JV level. Williams’ top five all broke the 20-minute barrier and were within 33 seconds and 16 places of each other. The leader of the pack was Shorling in 14th place at 19:26, followed nine seconds later by Davisson, who took 18th in 19:35. Hickman was close behind, finishing in 19:41 and nabbing the 20th spot. Soon after were Iaculli (29th, 19:53), then Welsh (30th, 19:59).

The next group was headed up by Samuelson, who, in 20:54, beat her time from the previous week by over two minutes. Elizabeth Gress ’06 followed about 30 seconds later, crossing the line in 127th place in 21:26. Captain Alicia Andrews ’03 came in a few seconds later in 135th place (21:32). Alexis Chernak ’05 and Sarah Connell ’06 wrapped up the Williams crew, coming in 211th (23:50) and 212th (23:52), respectively. All improved dramatically over times from the season’s previous races.

The Ephs are now poised for a great championship season, which will kick off this Saturday at Mt. Greylock High School when Williams takes on Amherst and Wesleyan for the Little Three Championship.