Jeffs Searching for Seventh-Straight NCAA Appearance

2008 Season Recap
After capturing the NCAA title in 2007, Amherst again returned to the National Championships in 2008 to mark its sixth consecutive appearance in the national race. The Jeffs opened their 2008 season by winning the Amherst Invitational, placing second at UMass Dartmouth and finishing third at the Williams Purple Valley Classic. Amherst then placed ninth overall at the Open New England Championships and third among Division III schools, followed by a runner-up finish at the Little III Championships. As the two-time defending conference champion, Amherst was unable to make it three in a row as the Jeffs placed fifth at the NESCAC Championships. Amherst then finished second at ECACs and fifth at the NCAA Regional Championships to qualify for nationals, where the team placed 28th to cap off the season.

Two-time All-New England honoree Sophia Galleher '10 finished with Amherst's second best time in five races last year.

Returning Runners
Highlighting this year’s team are senior tri-captain Sophia Galleher and junior Hallie Schwab. The 2006 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and two-time All-New England honoree, Galleher would have consistently been the team’s top runner last year had it not been for New England Runner of the Year Elise Tropiano ’09. Galleher finished with Amherst’s second fastest time at five meets in 2008, notably the Open New England, NCAA Regional and NCAA National Championships. Schwab consistently came in behind Galleher with the team’s third fastest time, including at the NCAA regional and national races. At the conference championships Schwab placed 28th overall with the Jeffs’ second fastest time.  

Joining Galleher as this year’s captains are senior Catherine Knuff and junior Christina Wong. Looking to repeat the success they saw in 2008 as first-years are Shannon McKenna and Eliza Schalch. McKenna got valuable experience a year ago by competing at the Open New England, NCAA Regional and National Championships, with Schalch joining her at nationals after placing 16th at ECACs. McKenna also rounded out the top 25 at the Williams Purple Valley Classic.

Rounding out the junior class are Cara Giaimo, Melissa Pritchard and Mercedes Taylor, with Pritchard placing 10th at last year’s Amherst Invite before competing at the NESCAC and ECAC Championships. Sophomore Laura Zaccagnino also competed at the conference championships and placed 18th at ECACs, as she highlights a sophomore class consisting of Marlis Gnirke, Anna Hager, Winnie Ma, Ellen Richmond and Melissa Sullivan.

Newcomers/Season Outlook
Galleher and Schwab will look to lead Amherst to a seventh straight NCAA appearance, but the team takes a big hit with the loss of Nicole Anderson, Liz Dalton, Caitlin McDermott-Murphy, Elise Tropiano and Zandra Walton to graduation. Notably, Tropiano finished as the runner-up at last year’s national championships and was named the USTFCCCA Scholar Athlete of the Year, NESCAC Runner of the Year and New England Runner of the Year. Entering his 13th season as head coach, Ned Nedeau welcomes nine first-years to the program: Rebecca Alizzi, Lauren Almeida, Sarah Daly, Abigail Hopper, Keri Lambert, Kristen Moulton, Jamila Odeh, Elodie Reed and Ali Simeone. Joining the staff and making his assistant coaching debut is Steve Shashy ’08. The 2009 season begins Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Amherst Invitational.