Women’s XC challenged by tough competition

A select squad of 13 Williams women raced Saturday at the 41st-annual Paul Short Invitational hosted by Lehigh University. This elite meet attracts some of the best Div. I, II and III teams in the nation as well as professional athletes and features 14 men’s and women’s races across collegiate, high school and open divisions. In total, more than 5500 athletes from 400 high schools and colleges competed throughout the day. The forecasted rain held off, and mild temperatures allowed for peak performance on a typically fast course.

Ten Ephs competed in the Gold 6k race that featured the top collegiate competition of the day. In the field of 329 runners from 38 schools were nationally ranked Div. I teams from Georgetown, Florida State and Villanova, as well as second-ranked Div. II Adams State. Also competing was the University of Guelf from Ontario, the top team in Canada. Among Div. III squads, Williams faced off against third-ranked St. Lawrence and the top team in the country, defending national champion Johns Hopkins.

In this elite field, the Ephs finished in an impressive 21st place. The University of Guelf took home the title with a remarkable 79-point victory over the fifth-ranked Georgetown University. Florida State University, ranked sixth in Div. I, finished third.

The Ephs performance was the result of a strong corps of first- and second-year runners led by Emma Zehner ’17. Zehner finished in 87th place in a time of 21:34 and added to her impressive sophomore campaign that already includes NESCAC Performer of the Week and ECAC Co-Runner of the Week honors. Zehner was named NESCAC Performer of the Week this week as well. Next for the women was Anna Harleen ’18 in 104th place, who crossed the line in 21:45.

Lacey Serletti ’16 finished next in 21:55, followed by Victoria Kingham ’18 in 22:03. Serletti earned 123rd place while Kingham placed 143rd. Rounding out the scoring squad for the women was Michelle Buncke ’17 in 22:16, good for 169th overall.

The Ephs’ sixth runner was Rebecca Delacruz-Gunderson ’18, who was not far behind Buncke in 22:22. Her classmate Stella Worters ’18 came through in 22:45. Maggie Peard ’17 was next in 22:56, followed by Hannah Cole ’17 in 23:02. Tri-captain Amelia Ortiz ’15 was the Ephs’ 10th finisher, coming in at 23:35.

Since the Gold race is capped at 10 entries per team, the remaining three women from Williams competed in the Open 6k race. The field featured more than 400 runners, including collegiate and professional athletes. Tri-captain Anna Spiers ’15 led the way in 22:50 to earn 59th place. Right behind was her classmate Eirann Cohen ’15 in 22:55, good for 68th. Meg Richardson ’16 raced to 73rd place, finishing in 23:05.

“The Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh this weekend hosted some of the top running programs of North America, including Villanova, Florida State, Yale and Guelf from Canada,” Spiers said. “It was the first 6k race for some of our first-years. Despite the showers in the morning, the race conditions were ideal, helping some girls to their personal records, including Richardson and Zehner. The ladies took advantage of the pack-racing we’ve been practicing to work together in passing others in the last 3k especially.”

Next week, the remainder of the Williams women will compete at the James Earley Invitational at Westfield State College.