Women’s cross country runs away with first at ECACs

It’s almost impossible to overstate how well the Ephs ran on Saturday at the ECAC Div. III Championships, which Williams hosted for the second year in a row.

The Ephs came away with their first ECAC title in College history, leaving the competition in the dust (or slippery hardened mud) on the Mt. Greylock High School 6K course, as they beat the second-place team by 118 points, 32 to 150. And Williams ran its second set of seven runners.

The harriers were blessed with unusually pleasant racing weather Saturday, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s. In a huge field of 225 women representing 43 schools ranging from St. Josephs College in Maine to Villa Julie in Maryland, Williams’ five scoring runners all placed in the top 10, with six of them earning all-ECAC honors (top 15) and all seven placing in the top 25.

Although Middlebury, which came in fourth with 212 points, Amherst (fifth, 214), and other teams ran their eighth through 14th runners, many ran their first string, including the second place Coast Guard Academy (150), and third place Colby (204).

The reasoning behind running the second seven, Assistant Coach Tara Crowley said, is that “we like to give the top seven a rest before Div. III New Englands, and it gives our second seven a chance to shine in one last race.”

And shine they did. After the race the runners beamed smiles of pride and happiness, as did their teammates who witnessed the incredible performance.

The women were outstanding enough to prompt men’s team member Brendan Dougherty ’06 to suggest that the ECAC Ephs break off and start their own college so they can go to Nationals too.

A farfetched idea to be sure, but it illustrates just how deep this year’s team is. Williams took second at ECACs last year, beating top-ranked Middlebury’s second seven by only eight points. This year Williams beat them by 180. Williams’ lowest score at ECACs had been 92 until Saturday.

In her last collegiate cross country race, Ann Schorling ’03 put it all on the line for a spectacular second-place finish in 23:45, 15 seconds behind winner Amanda Jinks of Plattsburgh, marking the highest individual placing ever of a Williams runner at ECACs. Schorling also cut 50 seconds off her previous 6K time on the home course.

“It was really incredible to see how hard Ann ran,” said Emily Fertig ’06, who was the next Eph to come in after Schorling. “Before the race she said to us ‘No regrets!’ and I think that’s how we all tried to run.”

A strong kick put Fertig through the chute in fifth in 23:58. Katie Davisson ’05 made an uncharacteristically bold move to the front to finish in sixth with a time of 24:10, 33 seconds faster than her Plansky Invitational 6K time.

In their first 6K’s ever, captain Paige McClanahan ’04 and Eve Besant ’04 finished ninth and 10th, in 24:24 and 24:29, respectively. Due to injury, this was Besant’s first race since the Purple Valley Classic on Sept. 21, and the team, including McClanahan, was thrilled to have her back:

“It was real exciting to have the whole team up at the front,” the captain said. “It really makes a big difference having teammates there beside you.”

With that support, the new distance turned out to be no problem, as McClanahan explained – “I started out pretty conservatively. You could really feel the extra thousand meters, but it was alright in the end. It gives you more opportunity to move along as the race progresses.”

Susie Theroux ’05 had another outstanding race in what has been an incredible season for her, making up for a lot of time out last year. She crossed the line in 11th place a few seconds behind Besant in 24:36. Mary Iaculli ’06 came in 24th place with a finishing time of (25:20) to put all the Ephs in the top 10 of the field.

“This was the biggest championship meet of the season for me personally and there was great energy among the girls competing,” Theroux said. “We really worked as a team throughout the race and we packed up and pushed each other along. Everyone had a great finish including some people who had really outstanding comebacks.”

“It was an amazingly dominant performance by our second seven” Head Coach Pete Farwell said. “We finally had everyone back in the line-up, as Paige, Emily and Eve, after many hours of cross training, came back from their injuries with championship races.

“Even after moving up quickly in the second mile, we held on and proved our strength over the 6K distance – a testament to a summer and fall of hard work.”

The final meet before Nationals is NCAA Regionals-Div. III New Englands, which the top seven will race in at Westfield this Saturday.

Last year the Ephwomen placed second behind a strong team from Middlebury in the meet, though if the returns from this weekend are any indicator, Williams should be poised to take top honors.