No. 3 women’s cross country took second place last Saturday at the Div. III New England Championships at Bowdoin. The women’s team score of 60 points was only five points behind first-place Middlebury, who had 55 points.
MIT took third with 134 points. The top two finishers at the regional race earn spots at the Div. III National Championship meet; Middlebury and Williams both automatically qualified for the tournament.
It was an exhilaratingly close race, made even more exciting by the split victories between Williams and Middlebury in the past weeks. Williams took first place at the NESCAC meet on Oct. 29 and Middlebury was triumphant at the ECAC meet on Nov. 5, setting up a tight competition.
Chiara Del Piccolo ’14 claimed the individual title in the event just two weeks after finishing first at the NESCAC Championships on Oct. 29. Del Piccolo’s finishing time of 20:52 on the 6k course was a full 13 seconds faster than second-place finisher Randelle Boots from Wellesley.
The women exhibited excellent packing and team strength, with all seven racers finishing in the top 30. Del Piccolo’s first-place finish was quickly followed by a strong finish from Olivia Delia ’12, who took ninth place with a time of 21:37. Shayna Barbash ’14 was only 10 seconds behind, placing 13th with 21:47. After Barbash came a strong Williams pack including Anna Spiers ’15, Alison Smith ’15 and Celeste Berg ’13. Spiers took 18th place with a time of 21:55, with Smith close behind in 19th place with 21:57. Berg was only a second behind, finishing in 21:58 and taking 20th place. Lauren Goldstein-Kral ’12 rounded out the women’s top seven with a time of 22:08 to secure 29th place.
“The team’s performance was one of the fastest group efforts in the history of the program,” Assistant Coach Ben Raphelson said. “For Chiara to break 21 [minutes] and five others to break 22 [minutes] for a 6k race was truly exceptional.”
“Chiara has been improving consistently all season, but last weekend she really put everything together and came away with an outstanding first-place finish,” co-captain Elleree Erdos ’12 said. ”The other six girls epitomized a team effort by working together to move up through the competition.”
Co-captain Natalie Davis ’12 agreed with Erdos. “All seven racers ran incredibly fast times, putting us in a great position for this coming weekend,” she said.
Despite these strong finishes, Middlebury pulled ahead in the final score. Although Del Piccolo finished 20 seconds in front of the Panthers’ top finisher, a fast pack of Panthers was able to fill the top 10. Middlebury claimed fourth, fifth and eighth place, in addition to placing women in 17th, 21st, 22nd and 28th, giving Middlebury a five-point victory over Williams.
“Middlebury ran an exceptional race on Saturday,” Raphelson said. “They went out very hard. We spent the second half of the race reeling them in, but we ran out of room in the end. We accomplished our main goal of advancing to the national championships. We’re very excited about our prospects there.”
The women will race at the Div. III NCAA Championship meet in Oshkosh, Wis., on Saturday.