Jeffs Return Solid Core for 2013-14 Indoor Season

Contact: Mike O'Brien

DaoAMHERST, Mass. – Despite the departure of nine senior class members from a year ago, second year head coach Cassie Funke-Harris and the Amherst College women’s indoor track and field team looked poised for a successful season with plenty of veteran leadership and a bevy of talented sophomores and first-years.

"We graduated a lot of talent last year, which certainly changes the complexion of our team,” said Funke-Harris. “But there are always people waiting in the wings for their opportunity and their chance to step up and make a difference for their team. It's too early to know who those people will be for us, but I'm excited about what I've seen so far.”  

“We have some sophomores and juniors who we anticipate making bigger contributions, and we have some really tremendous leadership in our senior class. The season is long and there's a lot of work that needs to be put in between now and May, but this group has a ton of potential,” adds Funke-Harris.

Following four successful showings in regular season meets, the Jeffs earned first place in their finale on the second day of the Springfield College Invitational before entering postseason play. In their next meet, Amherst took ninth out of 23 teams at the D-III New England Championships for the second consecutive season. The team followed up with a strong showing from their distance medley relay team at the NEICAAA Championships to finish third among Division III schools in a field filled with Division I and Division II programs. Four Jeffs earned a trip to the NCAA National Championships in which they captured four points in the 5k and DMR.

Funke-Harris and her Jeffs look to excel in relays once again this winter with the return of two All-America honorees from a year ago, senior captains Naomi Bates and Amy Dao. Bates, a two-time captain, and Dao, a veteran leader, were members of the 2012-13 distance medley relay team that earned a trip to nationals following a record-breaking performance at the NEICAAA Championships in which they shattered the previous school record by nearly five seconds, finishing in 11:39.51. The team marked the sixth fastest time in Division III history, earning a trip to the NCAA Championship where they finished eighth overall. Despite losing two members from last year’s squad, the duo looks to excel in the event once again with the addition of two newcomers.

Poised for another successful season in the 4x200 relay, the unit returns three members consisting of Bates, Taylor Summers ’16 and Abbeh Shirley Anderson ’15, and look to build off a stellar ending to last season. In the Springfield Invitational, the 4x200 team took second overall with a school record time of 1:48.29 and finished sixth at New Englands.

Dao headlines a talented core of distance runners. The senior All-American captain brings national championship experience and knows what it takes to compete at the highest level on the biggest stage. Joining her is first-time captain Lizzy Briskin ’15. Briskin, a talented cross country star, looks to build on an impressive fall in which she paced the Jeffs to an eighth place finish at the New England Championships.

The duo will captain an impressive group featuring Jessica Kaliski ’15, Betsy Black ’16, Keelin Moehl ’16 and Caroline Rose ’16. Kaliski showed great progress throughout the track season last year and combined with her impressive cross country performance, the junior has good momentum heading into the winter. Funke-Harris is also excited to have Black back this year after an injury plagued season and Moehl looks to build off a strong first-year campaign that showed significant improvement and is in a position to excel as a sophomore. Rose has had a big impact on the cross country team in her young career and looks to carry that success to the indoor track.

Bates anchors the sprints and jump events and looks to build upon an impressive career in Purple & White. Last season, the two-time captain claimed a total of nine events, excelling in the 60 meter dash, 200 meter dash and long jump. To open the season, she tied a 35-year old school record in the long jump with a mark of 5.39 meters and later shattered that record with a distance of 5.58 meters at the Springfield Invitational. Bates will also have the chance to qualify for the 200m nationals this season after the NCAA added the event to the indoor championship.

Alongside the All-American is a talented core that features junior captain Itai Brand-Thomas. Brand-Thomas brings plenty of leadership and experience to the Jeffs squad and looks to shine in the 400 meter dash.

After successful first-year campaigns, Summers and Victoria Hensley ’16 return with a year of experience under their belt. Summers competed in indoor track for the first time during the 2012-13 season and made a major impact right away in the 60m, 200m and long jump. Funke-Harris hopes the familiarity from a year ago will serve the sophomore well as she prepares for the upcoming indoor season. Hensley shined in the 400m as a first-year and made an immediate impact as well, claiming runner-up honors in the team’s first meet a year ago.

Funke-Harris will also have the luxury of bringing in 12 newcomers to this year’s squad that look to play a significant role to the team’s success; Karen Blake ’17, Mattie Coacher ’17, Sophie Currin ’17, Tess Frenzel ’17, Savannah Gornisiewicz ’17, Kiana Herold ’17, Hannah Herrera ’17, Cara Lembo ’17, Cat Lowdon ’17, Kathryn McHenry ’17, Mary Margaret Stoll ’17, and Sarah Whelan ’17.

“Our first-year class is very talented, and I think they will learn a lot from the example set by our juniors and seniors,” said Funke-Harris.

The Smith Winter Classic on Saturday, Dec. 7 will mark Amherst’s only competition before the New Year, with five regular-season meets in January and February to follow before the New England, NEICAAA, and ECAC Championships build up to the NCAA Championships on March 14-15 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.