Cross Country Ready For 2013 Season
Contact: Ben Badua
Losing one of the program’s most decorated runners to graduation is a tough blow. Losing three of the team’s top seven is difficult to overcome - but not impossible.
Led by perennial All-American Keri Lambert ’12, the Jeffs finished third at last year’s NESCAC Championships, with Lambert capturing the individual crown. Taking fifth out of 51 teams at the NCAA Regionals hosted by Westfield State University, Amherst qualified for a 10th-consecutive (12th overall) NCAA Championship, coming in 16th overall behind Lambert’s third-place showing.
Despite the turnover at the top of the Jeff order, Amherst does return a talented crop of veterans who have their sights set on another NCAA berth.
“You can’t replace a Keri Lambert,” said second-year head coach Cassie Funke-Harris. “Graduating three of our top seven is a tough loss, but I think that we have the makings of good team. If everything comes together and we stay healthy, we think qualifying for nationals is a realistic goal. That’s always our expectation.”
MEET THE TEAM
Hoping to help fill the void left by Amherst’s graduating seniors is junior tri-captain Lizzy Briskin. Bursting onto the scene with a solid rookie track & field season, Briskin made a name for herself on the course last fall, excelling at cross country after a productive summer spent training.
Consistently one of the Jeffs’ top three harriers, Briskin was the second Amherst student-athlete to cross the finish line at the NESCAC Championships, coming in 14th overall with a time of 22:14.04. Trailing only Lambert among Jeff competitors at regionals, she clocked in at 22:19.26 before having another solid showing as the team’s second fastest runner at nationals (22:38.00).
“Lizzy has really good racing instincts,” Funke-Harris said. “She races in a really smart way, sets a good example for the rest of the team and we expect her to be one of our top runners.”
Also looking to continue to improve after a strong 2012 season are Caroline Rose ’16 and Betsy Black ’16. Making an immediate impact, the duo both factored into the team’s top seven a year ago. The fourth Jeff to finish at NESCACs (22:43.29), Rose broke into the squad’s top three at regionals (22:48.13), before once again placing fourth among Amherst’s runners at the NCAAs (23:17.00). A strong competitor, Black factored into the scoring at all three major meets last season, clocking in at 23:07.52 in the league championships, 23:16.49 at NCAA regionals and 23:26.10 at nationals.
“Caroline and Betsy both bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our program,” said Funke-Harris. “They were towards the top of the team from the beginning and are great competitors. They were a pleasant surprise.”
Joining Briskin, Rose and Black are veterans Olivia Tarantino ’15 and Amy Dao ’14. Coming into her own last season, Tarantino cracked Amherst’s top seven at NESCACs (23:09.53), NCAA regionals (24:30.76) and nationals (24:00.8) and could once again factor into the team’s scoring this season.
An alternate at regionals, Dao raced at nationals, finishing with a time of 24:00.8. A captain on the track & field teams, Dao earned All-America honors as part of the squad’s eighth-place indoor distance medley relay (11:46.47), while also helping the 4x800-meter relay team shatter the school record (9:14.42) with a time of 9:10.81 at last year’s New England Championships.
“Olivia enjoyed her best summer of training heading into last season and it showed,” said Funke-Harris. “Amy will bring good leadership to our group. She’s performed well at big meets and that’s a good jumping off point.”
Captains Brooke Kirkham ’14 and Lisa Walker ’14 should also be a factor both on and off the course, while returners Jessie Kaliski ’15 and Lexi Sinclair ’16 will look to build on gains made last season.
Headlining a talented class of eight first-years are Sophie Currin and Catherine Lowdon, both of whom could make an immediate impact as competitive, accomplished high school runners from California.
Amherst opens its 2013 cross country season at Smith on Sept. 7. The Jeffs will then compete at the UMass Invitational on Sept. 14 before taking a two-week break prior to Williams’ Purple Valley Classic on Sept. 28.
The Little Three Championships are scheduled for Oct. 19, while the NESCAC Championships hosted by Conn. College are slated for Nov. 2. Southern Maine plays host to this year’s NCAA Regionals on Nov. 16, with the NCAA Championships taking place the following weekend on Nov. 23.