Amherst tops women’s XC to claim Little Three title

Heading into the Little Three championships at Wesleyan, women’s cross country knew it would be in for a challenge. The Amherst team, which claimed second at the 2006 NCAA championships and is currently ranked first in the national poll, boasts an extremely strong squad this season. At the meet on Saturday, the Ephs had an impressive showing with three women in the top eight finishers, but it was not enough to break the Jeffs’ pack. Amherst claimed the coveted Little Three title with 22, while Williams took second with 38 and host Wesleyan finished third with 79.

Equipped with wood mulch trails, trickling brooks and an open meadow start and finish, Wesleyan’s variable 5k course fully captures the spirit of cross country. The Ephs’ game plan, masterminded by Coach Pete Farwell, involved working in powerful packs to attack the strong Amherst squad, individual by individual.

After the 12:30 gun, the harriers dashed down the 500m straightaway with Rachel Asher ’09 leading the field. A tight pack of 10 or so Williams and Amherst harriers followed closely after. The Williams contingent consisted of co-captain Lissy Robie ’08, Olga Kondratjeva ’10, Lauren Philbrook ’09 and Moira Yoe ’10. A second Williams pack of Bret Scofield ’10, Jess Clarke ’10, co-captain Liz Gleason ’08 and Natalia Rey de Castro ’09 paced closely behind and worked together to hold off their Amherst and Wesleyan foes.

The front Eph-Jeff cluster did not separate until the mile two marker, where Amherst’s top pack suddenly pulled away with a huge surge. The Ephs knew this last mile change would be challenging: the Jeff pack would have to be broken up in order to contend for the title. Although Williams’ efforts were not enough to achieve Little Three victory, the Ephs finished with strength and confidence, capturing many fatigue-stricken Jeffs who may have started their kick a little too early.

Asher, who finished second in 18:55 held her lead until the final straightaway, where Amherst’s top woman cruised to first place. Kondratjeva finished with a blazing kick and took fourth in 19:04. Rounding out the top seven were Lissy Robie in eighth (19:14), Lauren Philbrook in 11th (19:27), Moira Yoe in 13th (19:29), Bret Scofield in 14th (19:33) and Jess Clarke in 15th (19:33).

Next Saturday at Mt. Greylock High School, Williams will once again face its Little Three foes along with other NESCAC squads in the conference championships.