Twelve runners from each NESCAC school vied for victory in the women’s cross country conference championships at Conn. College last Saturday. The race was held in Harkness Park under ideal conditions: sunny skies and a flat course situated right on the shore of the Long Island Sound. The Ephs finished second with 51 points. A strong Middlebury team that finished seven runners in the top 12 came in first with 29 points, and Tufts was third with 90 points. All-American Kaleigh Kenny ’14 ran a spectacular race, winning the meet and tying the course record of 21:20.
The race’s leaders charged off the starting line, opening with a 5:35 mile. However, Kenny did not let the unexpectedly quick start affect her plans for victory. She stuck with the leading pack early on in the race, then pulled away on her own, beating the second-place finisher from Middlebury by seven seconds.
“The race went out really fast and a lot of people paid the price, but we had a lot of people fight really well and hold on,” Assistant Coach Lance Harden said. “Middlebury had an extraordinary day. I don’t think that they could have run any better.”
Shayna Barbash ’14 placed fifth overall with a time of 21:46, and Molly Belk ’16 was 10th in 21:56. Both of these times were personal records. Belk has been an impressive performer for the Ephs this year in her first cross country season.
Co-captain Brianne Mirecki ’14 was next to finish for the Ephs; she ran a gutsy and strategic race, beginning conservatively then tactfully moving up through the field to place 16th in a time of 22:14. Alison Smith ’15 ran another strong race, placing 25th overall in 22:32.
Lacey Serletti ’16 rounded out the Ephs’ top five finishers with a 19th-place finish in 22:19. Serletti ran an impressive race and paced herself without the help of the usually-tighter Williams pack.
Co-captain Louisa Lee ’14 ran a tenacious and smart race, starting toward the back of the pack and making up a phenomenal amount of ground to finish 29th with a time of 22:42. Hannah Cole ’17 fought heroically through a tough race to finish 31st in 22:46.
Meg Richardson ’16 finished in 23:14, and Emma Zehner ’17 completed the course in 23:38. These two women were 45th and 58th, respectively.
Anna Spiers ’15 and Talia Calnek-Sugin ’15 valiantly battled midrace mishaps, with Spiers twisting her ankle and Calnek-Sugin struggling with dehydration. Spiers finished the race in 24:47, but Calnek-Sugin had to drop out because of the severity of her medical issue.
The Ephs will forge ahead through championship season with the second seven runners competing in the ECAC championships in Bristol, R.I., on Saturday.
The top seven runners have the weekend off to prepare for Div. III New Englands at Southern Maine on Nov. 16 and Div. III Nationals on Nov. 23. Williams will face Middlebury at both of these important races and hopes to either repeat or improve on last year’s second-place finish.
Kenny will go into the race as an individual favorite, but will face fierce competition from both Middlebury and MIT runners.
While many teams seem to have already run their best races, the women have historically peaked at just the right time. Come Nationals, the Ephs will have a season of rock-solid training and teamwork to fuel them.