Amherst Sending Four to NCAA Track Championships This Weekend

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AMHERST, MA – Amherst College will be sending four student-athletes to the 2008 NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which are set to take place on J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Competition at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is set to kick off Thursday, May 22 at noon, with the final event beginning Saturday, May 24 at 4:55 p.m.

The Amherst women's team is hoping to improve upon its fourth place finish of a year ago. Led by current Amherst assistant coach Shauneen Garrahan’s trio of first place finishes, the Lord Jeffs racked up 41 team points, just 16 points behind eventual champion Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Garrahan won a national championship on each day of the three-day meet, winning in the 10,000-meter Run on Thursday, the 3,000-meter Steeplechase on Friday, and the 5,000-meter Run on Saturday.

Returning from last year’s team is a pair of Amherst veterans in senior Heather Wilson (Danvers, MA) and junior Elise Tropiano (Plainview, NY). Tropiano will begin her weekend when she takes part in the Steeplechase Friday at 7 p.m. and will wrap things up Saturday at 3:55 p.m. with the 5,000-meter Run.

In the Steeplechase, Tropiano brings the third best qualifying time of the 18 participants, as her mark of 10:36.46 at the Division III New England Championships leaves her less than two seconds behind Colby’s Anna King, who holds the top qualifying time in the field. Tropiano’s time of 10:42.56 in the Steeplechase placed her seventh at last year’s NCAA Championships.

Qualifying with a time of 17:02.02—which she earned at the Open New England Championships—in the 5k, Tropiano has improved greatly upon last year’s NCAA mark of 17:49.30, which placed her 16th. Her qualifying time would have been good enough for sixth place at last year’s championships and is the sixth best among this year’s participants.

Tropiano also ran the 10k at last year’s national meet and finished right behind Wilson, who placed sixth with a time of 35:59.11. This year, Wilson ran a 35:41.28 at the Open New England Championships for the third best qualifying time among this year’s NCAA field. The women’s 10,000-meter Run is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

This weekend will mark the end of a great career for Wilson, who has excelled as a tri-sport athlete at Amherst. In addition to being a three-time All-NESCAC honoree for both cross country and outdoor track, this year Wilson was named the conference's Most Outstanding Performer before leading the Jeffs to the program's first national cross country championship. Wilson earned three NESCAC Cross Country Performer of the Week honors this past fall and also earned USTFCCCA All-America recognition.    

Also competing for Amherst this weekend is a pair of first-years in Kristen Ballinger (Wenatchee, WA) and Peter Harrison (Concord, NH). Ballinger, who earned a pair of All-NESCAC honors this spring, qualified for nationals with a first-place time of 2:12.40 in the 800-meter Run at the ECAC Championships. Of the 20 participants in the 800, Ballinger’s qualifying time of 2:12.40 is the 13th best. The 800-meter trials will take place Friday at 6:20 p.m., with the finals set for Saturday at 2:50 p.m.

Harrison will be the first Amherst male to compete at the NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships since 2005, as he qualified for the 1,500-meter Run with a first-place time of 3:53.22 at the ECAC Championships. The trials for the 1500 will take place Thursday at 4:35 p.m., with the finals set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Harrison—an All-NESCAC honoree in the 1500 for his time of 3:54.12 at the conference championships—holds the 14th best qualifying time of the event’s 16 participants.

For a list of participants, qualifying standards, schedules, results and more, please visit the official 2008 NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship Website.


Amherst Participants' Schedule of Events:
Thursday, May 22
Peter Harrison (1,500-meter Run trials) - 3:58.93, DNQ
Heather Wilson (10,000-meter Run) - 36:55.79, 14th place

Friday, May 23
6:20 p.m. - Kristen Ballinger (800-meter Run trials)
7 p.m. - Elise Tropiano (Steeplechase)

Saturday, May 24
2:50 p.m. - Kristen Ballinger (800-meter Run finals)
3:55 p.m. - Elise Tropiano (5,000-meter Run)