Amherst Women Head to NCAA Championship

Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – For the tenth year in a row, the Amherst College women’s cross country team will head to the Division III National Championship after the Lord Jeffs secured one of 16 at-large bids when the NCAA announced individual and team qualifiers Sunday.

The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will host the championships on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the LaVern Gibson Course in Terre Haute, Ind. The women’s six-kilometer race will begin at noon ET with live results provided by Delta Timing.

Amherst qualified for the event thanks to a fifth-place finish at the New England Regional Championship Saturday. All-American Keri Lambert ’13 won the event and Lizzy Briskin ’15 earned All-Region honors for her 29th-place finish as the Jeffs made themselves eligible for an at-large bid by scoring among the top five teams at the meet. The bid is Amherst’s 12th in program history, including a national title in 2007 and a runner-up performance in 2006.

Entering the weekend ranked 23rd nationally by the USTFCCCA, the Jeffs will need an outstanding team performance to match 2011’s 11th-place finish at the event. Lambert led Amherst in that race, earning All-America honors by placing fifth among team competitors and eighth overall. Co-captains Lauren Almeida ’13 and Lambert will be the only two Jeffs to return to the competition this year from 2011’s nationals squad.

Lambert will lead the way again for Amherst in 2012 after a fall that has exceeded her already remarkable junior campaign. The senior has done nothing but win over the last two months, crossing the line first in each of her past four races. After dominating a 453-person field at the James Earley Invitational on Oct. 6, Lambert won by nearly 50 seconds at the Little Three Championship a week later.
Then, with the stage growing larger, Lambert shone even brighter, taking home the NESCAC individual title on Oct. 27 at the conference championship meet. Her time of 20:33.45 marked a 6k personal best and shattered the Bowdoin course record as the senior became the fourth Jeff to win the even in the last six years.

Two weeks later, Lambert outpaced a far-larger field at the Regional Championship, winning in 20:48.94 as she once again put over 20 seconds between herself and the next-best competitor. With her times this fall consistently among the nation’s lowest, Lambert will seek to become Amherst’s first-ever cross country national champion after Elise Tropiano '09 placed second in 2008 for the highest finish in program history.

Amherst’s team performance will largely depend on the racers behind Lambert. After a breakout outdoor track season in the spring, Briskin has emerged as a reliable No. 2 for Amherst this fall, posting top-10 finishes at the Earley Invitational and Little Three Championship before earning All-NESCAC and All-New England honors over the last month by placing 14th (22:14.04) and 28th (22:19.26) at the conference and regional championships, respectively.

Almeida will also be a major contributor for the Jeffs on Saturday, having finished just behind Briskin at NESCACs, barely missing All-Conference recognition with her 16th-place time of 21:19.41. Meanwhile, Caroline Rose ’16 has impressed as a first-year and was the third Jeff across the line at Regionals, edging Almeida to take 51st in 22:48.13. Co-captain Elodie Reed ’13 has been a consistent top-five competitor for Amherst this fall and will likely be a factor this weekend, while Betsy Black ’16, Olivia Tarantino ’15 and Amy Dao '14 will round out the Amherst contingent in Terre Haute.

MIT enters the national meet as top-ranked favorites after taking the New England regional title last Saturday. The Engineers placed four runners inside the top 12 and all five scorers in the top 25, earning an automatic bid to nationals along with second-place Williams. NESCAC rivals Middlebury and Bates will also make the trip to Indiana after placing above Amherst last weekend in third and fourth, respectively. The Ephs and Panthers enter the weekend ranked third and fifth, respectively, with No. 2 Johns Hopkins and No. 4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps rounding out the national top five.