Cross Country Eyes Return to NCAAs

Contact: Ben Badua

Amherst placed 11th at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships

The Amherst women’s cross country team enjoyed another solid season in 2011, standing out as one of the elite teams in the most competitive conference in Division III. Placing third at the NESCAC Championships and fourth at the NCAA Regionals, the Jeffs closed out the season with an 11th-place showing at the national meet. With All-America honoree Keri Lambert ’13 back in the fold, first-year head coach Cassie Funke-Harris and the Jeffs will hope to wrestle control of a league that has produced nine of the last 12 national champions.

“Our goal is to be running at our best at the end of the season,” said Funke-Harris. “We see some of the best teams in the country week in and week out and while I think we have the talent to compete at that level, it’s a matter of seeing how it all comes together throughout a long season.”

Headlining a talented senior class is Lambert, who placed eighth at last season’s NCAA Championship with a time of 21:12.68. Posting the Jeffs’ fastest time in all seven of her races in 2011, she won Williams’ Purple Valley Classic in late September before finishing second at both the Little III and NESCAC Championships and crossing the tape as the top Division III runner at the NEICAAA meet.

Recording the best finish for a Lord Jeff at nationals since Elise Tropiano ’09 placed second in 2008, Lambert propelled Amherst to 11th out of 32 in the team standings. She then set herself apart as one of the premier distance runners in Division III with a tremendous outdoor track & field season that included another All-America showing in the 5,000-meter run and a national championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“Keri had a huge breakthrough last year,” said Funke-Harris. “For her it’s a matter of continuing that process. I’m excited about the year she had and I think she enjoyed a number of experiences that should serve her well and put her in a position to further capitalize on her success.”

Tri-captain Elodie Reed is one of eight seniors on the Jeffs' 2012 roster

In addition to Lambert, this year’s senior class brings back a wealth of experience in the form of Rebecca Alizzi, Lauren Almeida, Sarah Daly, Abby Hopper, Kristen Moulton, Jamila Odeh and Elodie Reed.

Consistently factoring into the scoring last season, Almeida, Daly and Reed will be among those counted on to help provide some leadership from the top. Opening the year with a strong showing at the UMass Invitational (19:16), Almeida turned in the squad’s third fastest time at the NEICAAA (19:19) before crossing the finish in 23:02 at the NCAA Championships.

A member of Amherst’s top seven a year ago, Reed will hope to continue to develop, while Daly, who was the third fastest Jeff at the NESCAC Championships (23:58), could build on last season’s strong finish at the national meet (22:31) and an outdoor track season that saw her narrowly miss qualifying for the NCAAs in the 10,000-meter run.

Amy Dao, who led all Amherst harriers at the ECAC Championships (23:58), Lisa Walker and Brooke Kirkham give the Jeffs some depth and leadership from the junior class, while youngsters Lizzy Briskin and Jessie Kaliski could see increased roles following strong rookie seasons.

“Lizzy [Briskin] had a fabulous track season last year,” said Funke-Harris “I think it’s going to be fun to see how that translates into her cross country season. It sounds like she had a good summer of training and I’m excited to see where that takes her. Jessie [Kaliski] also enjoyed a great year and we hope to continue that upward trend.”

Turning in the third fastest Amherst times in her first two collegiate meets at UMass (18:56) and Williams (23:47), Kaliski continued to factor into the scoring throughout the 2011 season. One of four returners who competed at last year’s NCAA Championships (23:16), she could once again crack the squad’s top seven.

Amherst opens its season at the UMass Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 15.