Jeffs Ready to Fight for NESCAC Title

Contact: Matthew Hart

AlmeidaLambertBriskin

AMHERST, Mass. -- After finishing third at the event a year ago, the Amherst women’s cross country team will look to challenge frontrunners Williams and Middlebury while holding off an up-and-coming Tufts squad at Saturday’s NESCAC Championships, hosted by Bowdoin.

With three of five scorers from last year’s meet returning, along with a strong group of new faces, the Jeffs could make a run at their first conference title since winning back-to-back crowns in 2006 and 2007. Amherst has yet to finish above Williams or Middlebury at an event this year while also placing just behind Tufts at Williams’ Purple Valley Classic on Sep. 22, but several key runners have dropped crucial seconds off their times over the course of the fall and will look to lift the team past its rivals.

Leading Amherst and competing for the conference’s individual title on Saturday will be Keri Lambert ’13. An eighth-place, All-America performer at last year’s National Championship and the runner-up in the 2011 conference meet, Lambert’s biggest challenger for the 2012 crown is likely to be Middlebury’s Addie Tousley. After finishing behind her in third at last year’s conference meet, Tousley outkicked Lambert by five seconds at last month’s Purple Valley Classic, but the Amherst native came back two weeks later to easily top her Panther rival en route to winning Westfield State’s James Earley Invitational in 21:30.11, over 20 seconds ahead of Tousley. Lambert also dominated the Little Three Championships on Oct. 13, winning the 5k course in 18:21.0 to defeat the top runners from Williams and Wesleyan by nearly 50 seconds.

A winning time from Lambert will hardly be enough to bring the Jeffs a title, however, as the remaining Amherst harriers will be the ones who largely decide the team’s outcome. After not competing in last year’s conference meet, Lizzy Briskin ’15 has blossomed into a force as a sophomore, posting top-10 finishes at both the Earley Invite and Little Threes. Lauren Almeida ’13 and Caroline Rose ’16 have been right behind her, dropping their 6k times significantly between Williams and Westfield then finishing 10th and 11th, respectively, to help Amherst take second against the Ephs and Wesleyan two weeks ago.

The placement of Amherst’s fifth and final scorer could well prove the key factor in the Jeffs’ team result on Saturday. Betsy Black ’16 was Amherst’s No. 5 finisher at Little Threes, while Elodie Reed ’13 filled that spot at the Earley Invite and Olivia Tarantino ’15 has kept pace with the two all fall. Lexi Sinclair ’16 was the fifth Jeff across the line at Williams in September, while Jessie Kaliski ’15 placed 34th and scored for Amherst at last year’s conference meet and could come up with a big performance again.

Saturday’s 6-kilometer race will begin at 1:00 p.m. from Brunswick, Maine.

Check out Keri Lambert in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd"

NESCAC Race Preview