The Williams women's cross country team has qualified for all 19 NCAA Championships since NESCAC permitted post-season team competition in 1993. This fall the Ephs look to extend their streak to 20 years.
Thirteen times Williams has finished in the top five at the NCAA Championships, winning the title in 2002 and 2004.
Head coach Pete Farwell (2000-12) will enter his 13th year at the helm of the Ephs and will have four of his top seven runners back from the 2011 NCAA Division III Championship race, where the Ephs finished third behind champion Washington University (MO) and Middlebury
Two top seven runners were lost to graduation in Olivia Delia who was the third Eph across the line at the NCAA's and Lauren Goldstein-Kral who was the sixth fastest Eph in that race.
The biggest loss from the 2011 team, however, was not to graduation, but to the prestigious Williams-Oxford Junior Year Abroad Program, which has claimed Chiara Del Piccolo, the NCAA Division III champion in 2011.
Del Piccolo closed out 2011 winning her last five races and becoming just the second Eph woman to win the NCAA race, joining Jess Caley '98 who won in 1995. Del Piccolo topped the NCAA field of 222 runners and won by a five-second margin last November in Winneconne, WI.
Coach Farwell comments "We'll miss the experience and racing ability of Olivia and Lauren, who were wonderful four-year athletes on our squad. Chiara's performances were outright phenomenal in that championship month last year, and it will certainly affect our team score not to have that "1" point up top, but we have plenty of veteran all-conference runners, up-and-coming potential stars, and a great team dynamic to create a fast, tight-knit pack with the best depth in New England."
Headlining the list of returnees from last year's NCAA team is sophomore Alison Smith who finished 33rd overall and fourth fastest among freshman. Smith was the Ephs' second finisher behind Del Piccolo at the NCAA race. Her finish in the top 35 earned Smith All-America honors.
Senior co-captain Celeste Berg was the fourth Eph to finish at the 2011 NCAA's when she came in 75th. Three seconds behind Berg was junior Shayna Barbash who came in 79th. Sophomore Anna Spiers was the seventh Eph finisher, coming in 110th.
|Alison Smith '15|
Barbash was the Ephs' third finisher at the NCAA-New England Qualifier when the Ephs punched their ticket to the NCAA Championship race with a second place team finish. Barbash finished in 13th place.
At the NESCAC Championships the Ephs placed seven runners in the top 17 places and won the team title.
Spiers was the first freshman to finish at the NESCAC Championship race, claiming seventh place and being named Rookie of the Year. Barbash was one second behind Spiers and captured 8th. Celeste Berg notched a 13th place finish and Alison Smith was the seventh Eph to cross the line and she came in 17th.
At the first championship meet last season, the Little Three at Amherst, the Ephs won the title comfortably by placing five runners in the top seven and eight in the top 10. Del Piccolo led, by claiming first place, with Barbash third, junior Leslie Blackshear in fourth. Alison Smith was fifth and Lauren Goldstein-Kral took seventh, while Spiers came in just two seconds behind Goldstein-Kral to finish 8th. Brianne Mirecki captured 10th place and became the team's valuable alternate for the NCAA meet.
"Celeste and Brianne bring tremendous leadership and work ethic to their roles as co-captains this year," exudes coach Farwell, "And they back it up with the ability to compete at the highest level, always giving and achieving their maximum. Alison had a breakthrough All-American performance in the biggest meet of the year, one of the best peaks we had at the Championship. Anna, also a freshman, raced superlatively and consistently throughout the year, and we hope she can soon overcome her present injury. Shayna was a surprise last year, really having the knack to get out in the thick of the competition and push herself to the limit for high placings, more so than earning her all-conference and all-region honors."
|Molly Malinowski '15 (left)
& Brianne Mirecki '14
Junior Leslie Blackshear was sidelined by injury after the Little Three meet, but had led the team in many workouts and meets up until then. "We'll be looking for her to return to our scoring pack, as she has been working hard on her conditioning all summer," relates Farwell.
Other top candidates to join the top seven include those who placed 6th, 7th, 9th and 12th, respectively at the 2011 ECAC Division III Championships; junior Kaleigh Kenny, and sophomores Molly Malinowski, Talia Calnek-Sugin, and Amelia Ortiz. "Kaleigh was a most pleasant surprise in that meet, coming out of nowhere, and she continued her rise with great 3k racing during the track season, as did Amelia in the 10k," says Coach Farwell. "Molly and Talia improved all season, and look to be even better prepared this year." Mirecki also placed 8th in that ECAC meet, then followed that up with a splendid track season, qualifying for the Indoor NCAA mile in the winter and finishing 9th in the steeplechase at last spring's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Other veteran runners expected to contribute after strong summer training include sophomore Adrienne Strait, and juniors Emily Barreca and Louisa Lee.
One or two freshmen from a talented incoming class may move into the top seven, and a group of first years will provide additional team depth within the "Second Seven." Based on their high school results these are likely to be Meg Richardson, Anna Ryba, Sophie Chatas, Kathryn McNaughton and Lacey Serletti.
Looking ahead, Farwell notes: "I see Middlebury, defending region champions, plus MIT and Amherst as the top contenders from New England, and we will vie with them for berths at the NCAA Championship." Farwell is quite optimistic about the upcoming season: "While we are in the best women's cross country conference (NESCAC) and region (New England) within NCAA Division III, we are perennially in the top two or three, and can be again, with this contingent of talented and dedicated team-spirited harriers."
The Ephs will open their 37th varsity season on the road when they compete in the Vassar Invitational on September 8 and follow that with the home Purple Valley Classic 20-team invitational, featuring nationally ranked teams from four regions.