Women’s cross country opened its season on Saturday with a victory at the Ron Stonitsch Invitational hosted by Vassar.
The Ephs placed first in the field of 15 teams with a score of 41 points. The women from the Stevens Institute (74 points) and RPI (112 points) placed second and third, respectively. Hot and muggy weather at the Vassar Farm course led to relatively slower times for the women on the 5k course.
“I think it was a really great first effort by the team,” tri-captain Maggie Peard ’17 said. “It seems as though people are coming into the season with really good summer training under their belt and this first meet was a great one to assess where we are. Our main goal for the race was to be conservative with our paces for the first two third of the race and then pick it up for the last mile, so it was really great to be able to focus on that while still placing first as a team and having so many individuals in the top 15.”
Although the women did not race their entire top squad, the Ephs executed the winning formula by racing closely in groups mixed with first-years and upperclassmen. The team treated a majority of the race like a tempo in order to achieve a negative split over the last 1000 meters.
Amy Regan from the Stevens Institute claimed the individual race title for the third straight year with a time of 18:04.2. Regan, who won the 2014 NCAA Championship race, will be a runner to beat this season.
Emma Zehner ’17 placed second overall with a time of 18:33.3. Zehner made a decisive move after mile two that allowed her to secure a second-place spot.
Third-place finisher Mary Visca (19:01.9) of the Stevens Institute was nearly 30 seconds behind Zehner.
The rest of the racers were packed closer together at the finish, resulting a number of exciting kicks. Anna Harleen ’18 was the next finisher for the Ephs with a time of 19:17.0 and an overall place of eighth after a strong gear shift at mile 2.5. Co-captain Maggie Peard ’17 and Emma Herrman ’20 followed directly behind Harleen with times of 19:22.0 and 19:26.9, respectively. The eighth- to 10th-place sweep was critical for the Ephs in securing the victory.
“Although we’ve been running with each other for several weeks now, it was fun to see the team in action – how the different groups shook out, how each individual has different strengths on a certain section of the course or phase of the race, and how each person wants to work on moving forward,” tri-captain Hannah Cole ’17. “The racing dynamic changes each year as people improve, seniors graduate, et cetera.”
Another pack of Ephs swept places the 12 through 14. Stella Worters ’18 (19:31.5), tri-captain Laney Teaford ’17 (19:31.7) and Carmen Bango ’20 (19:32.8) finished just over a second apart, pushing each other to the finish.
Michelle Buncke ’17 (19:42.7) and Anna Passannante ’20 (19:43.1) finished in 19th and 20th, respectively, a mere half-second apart from each other. Yvonne Bungei ’17 also finished in 28th with a time of 19:57.8.
The team is impressed with its results. “Zehner was sensational, moving well after two miles to establish herself solidly in second, with only the 2014 national champ ahead of her,” Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73 said. “Behind her we had great packing, enabling us to take seven of the top 14 places out of nearly 200 runners.”