Lambert Dominates Pack at NESCACs
Issue   |   Wed, 10/31/2012 - 13:56
Mark Idleman '15, Public Affairs Office
Keri Lambert cruised to her third-straight win of the season, helping her team to a third-place finish at NESCACs.

Women

Donned in a white NBA headband and eye-black to protect herself from the grueling Maine sun, senior all-American Keri Lambert broke the Bowdoin course record en route to winning the NESCAC Championship — her third straight first-place finish of the season and another impressive accolade in what has proved to be an illustrious, if not dominant, career as a Jeff.

Although her results this year (and race strategy of breaking from the pack as early as possible) may suggest otherwise, the Amherst native did not explode onto the Division III running scene as you may expect.

Lambert’s first year of college, she joined the cross country team without any expectations or knowledge of what the future might hold. While her first two seasons showed signs of promise, it wasn’t until last year that Lambert revealed exactly how good she might be. At the Purple Valley Invitational last September, she blew away the field for her first collegiate victory. After taking second at both Little Three’s and NESCACs, Lambert turned many heads at nationals, finishing fifth overall. On the track that spring, Lambert won the 3K steeplechase by 39 seconds with the fastest Div. III time of the year, 10:19.37, a new meet record.

This season, Lambert has hit her stride at the right time. After getting outkicked in the homestretch by Middlebury’s Addie Tousley in late September at Williams, Lambert has dominated her last three races, winning each by at least 20 seconds.

At the James Earley Invitational 6K, Lambert outran the 452-woman field with a then personal-best 21:30.11, topping Tousley by 20 seconds. The following weekend, Lambert won the Little Three Championship by a whopping 49 seconds, crossing the finish line with a time of 18:21.0.

Although crossing paths with Lambert on campus might not reveal just how talented she is, her success has not gone unnoticed.Sports Illustrated featured the senior in their Oct. 22 issue’s “Faces in the Crowd.” Who says Div. III running doesn’t get the attention it deserves?

Indeed the pressure was on as Lambert & company traveled to Bowdoin last Saturday. But from the gun, as she seems fond of doing, Lambert separated herself from the field and never looked back.

“I’m not really the most calculated racer,” Lambert explained. “I like to keep things simple and gutsy. At Bowdoin I focused on getting to the finish line as quickly as possible and enjoying being in the lead instead of stressing over whatever was going on behind me.”

Crossing the finish line in 20:33.45, Lambert bested rival Tousley again, here by 47 seconds.

Lambert’s conference victory marks the fourth time in the past six years that an Amherst runner has won the NESCAC Championship. For Lambert, the victory was especially sweet. “I’ve been a NESCAC runner-up four times in three different events,” Lambert said. “The pattern got kind of old.”

After the win, Lambert also expressed a fondness for her competitors and conference. “I feel really lucky to be a NESCAC athlete. There’s a ton of talent in this conference, and it’s exciting and really helpful to race against such great runners on a regular basis.”

That said, Lambert still managed to reveal the competitive spirit necessary to shatter a course record and win three straight races. When asked if she would have given the same response had she finished second, she responded coyly, “probably not.”

Led by Lambert, the No. 20-ranked Lady Jeffs found themselves on the podium, finishing third overall in the 11-team event. Behind Lambert, Lizzy Briskin continued to impress in her sophomore season, finishing 14th overall with a time of 22:14.04. Along with Lambert’s dominance, Briskin’s breakout year has been crucial to Amherst’s team success and has earned her a second-team All-NESCAC selection. Junior Lauren Almeida took 16th with a time of 22:19.41, which first-year Caroline Rose finished in 22:42.29, good enough for 36th. Rounding out the Jeffs’ scorers, Elodie Reed ’13 placed 46th with a time of 23:00.88.

Williams, ranked third nationally, dominated the team competition (45 points) with three runners finishing in the top five. Middlebury took second with 71 points.

Looking forward at Lambert’s season, it’s hard to imagine her not focused on Nationals, held in Indiana.

“There’s nothing quite like cross country nationals. It’s a spectacle, you can feel the energy and nerves and speed and confidence in the air,” she said.

But before thinking about Nationals, or the track season for that matter, Lambert says she’s taking things one race at a time.
“Now it’s time to focus on Regionals. New England is incredibly strong this year, so we’re going to have to leave it all on the course.” With Lambert peaking at the right time, something tells me she’ll be able to do a little more than just that.

Men

Hoping to improve on their eighth place finish last season, the men’s cross country team traveled to Bowdoin on Saturday, Oct. 27 to compete in the NESCAC Championship.

Led by senior captain Andrew Erskine, the Jeffs improved on their performance last season and took home seventh in the event with a total of 196 team points. Erskine crossed the line with a time of 25:02.79 in the 8K race, putting him in 16th place overall. Although every scoring Jeff — the team’s top five finishers — finished in the top 50, a large gap between Erskine and his teammates prevented the Jeffs from finishing higher in the team event.

Junior Pat Grimes was the second Amherst finisher, taking 39th overall with a time of 25:39.02, while sophomore KC Fussell (25:42.07) took home 41st. Rounding out the Jeffs scoring, juniors Charlie Reighard (25:50.13) and Alvaro Morales (26.00.38) finished 47th and 50th, respectively. Sophomore Jeff Turissini, the top Amherst finisher throughout the season, most notably at in the Little III Championship, posted a disappointing 26:47.93 to give him 79th place.

Bowdoin’s Colby Horowitz won the race on his home course with a time of 24:26.78, just edging out Tufts’ Matt Rand (24:27.29). Tufts, whose top five runners all earned top-20 finishes, took home the team prize with a total score of 66 points. Middlebury’s 69 gave them second, while Bowdoin edged out instate rival Bates for the final spot on the podium with 88 points.

Williams took fifth, while fellow Little III rival Wesleyan, whom the Jeffs beat just two weeks earlier, took home sixth with 164 points. Behind the Jeffs, Conn College, Colby, Hamilton and Trinity rounded out the scoring.

The Jeffs return to action this weekend, traveling to Williams to compete in the ECAC Championship.

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