Led by a third-place finish from Keri Lambert ’13, the women’s cross-country team took fourth place at the NCAA New England Regionals held Saturday at Bowdoin, earning an at-large bid to the National Championships in the process.
On the men’s side, Andrew Erskine ’13 individually qualified for the Championships in finishing sixth, while the team had a strong eighth-place showing.
Lambert tore through the six-kilometer course in 21:08 to take third and finishing first for the Jeffs for the seventh time this season. The first-team All-NESCAC runner has been remarkably reliable this year, finishing every race in the top 10 despite facing a strong NESCAC conference along with strong Div. I competition in certain meets.
“Everyone on the team has a role and those roles start with Keri and her ability to repeat her outstanding performances,” head women’s coach John Adamson said. “Keri’s consistency has been a key to our success this season.”
Knowing that they needed to finish fifth or higher to have a chance at qualifying for the NCAA Championships, the team planned accordingly to ensure that they would quickly get their fifth runner in.
“Our plan for the race was very much for Melissa Sullivan ’12, Sarah Daly ’13 and Lauren Almeida ’13 to run together and break up the top five of MIT, Tufts and Colby,” Adamson explained. “Over the last half mile of the race they were clustered together and as a unit they finished aggressively.”
After Ali Simeone ’13 — the team’s clear number two runner — came in 27th with a time of 22:06, the trio of Sullivan, Daly and Almeida finished 36th, 37th, and 39th, respectively, around 20 seconds later.
The team’s strategy paid off, as Amherst finished well ahead of Tufts for fifth place and ended up only eight points behind MIT, currently ranked seventh in the nation. The third, fourth, and fifth-place teams all received at-large bids to nationals, a reflection of the region’s strength.
“New England is the toughest region in the country, so the team is looking at this weekend [the National Championships] as an extension of what we have been doing all season,” Adamson said.
For the men, Erskine was determined to improve on his performance at the NESCAC Championships, where he said he went out too slowly and couldn’t make up enough ground in muddy conditions.
On Bowdoin’s course, Erskine went out quicker and was in a clump of runners sprinting towards the finish.
"Around 100 meters to go, I started getting passed by a couple of runners, including the top Williams guy,” Erskine said.
Erskine managed to battle back to finish sixth with a time of 25:01.03 in a dead heat, .27 seconds ahead of Williams’ Chris Lee and only .14 seconds behind the fourth-place finisher. Patrick Grimes ’13 finished next in 19th, with KC Fussell ’15 finishing next in 38th.
Ben Scheetz ’12 came across in 68th in his last collegiate cross country race, and Greg Turissini ’15 ended the scoring by crossing the line eight seconds later in 74. The men ended up eighth out of 48 teams, only 30 points away from fifth place.
Erskine and the women’s team will head to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Saturday for the National Championships, where the women placed eighth last year. The top 35 runners there will become All-Americans, an accomplishment that multiple Lord Jeffs will be gunning for.