Women’s XC heads back to nationals this weekend

by Blaze Joel | 11/17/14 4:08pm

For the second year in a row, the women’s cross country team qualified for the NCAA national championship meet in Terre Haute, Indiana. The team received one of 13 at-large bids after finishing third in the Northeast Regional meet with 136 points.

“As a team, I don’t think we had our best race at regionals – we didn’t qualify automatically,” Dana Giordano ’16 said. “But we’re definitely looking to improve on our team performance from last year.”

This marks the first time the program has reached the national meet in consecutive years since 1997, which was part of a streak of six straight appearances that began in 1992. Last season, the team finished 16th with 369 points.

Head coach Courtney Jaworski said the team altered its training regimen to peak for this race, noting that runners delayed lifting and mileage so athletes stayed healthy until the end of the season.

“I think the team definitely saw this coming a little bit,” Jaworski said. “If you look at the returning athletes and the fitness of this team, this was definitely a goal that was achievable.”

This season’s team has thrived because of its depth, with several runners scoring in every meet. After Ellie Gonzalez ’18 went down with an injury, for instance, Claudia Pham ’15 filled in as the team’s fifth-point winner in the NCAA regional meet. All seven runners placed in the top 100, with all those earning points placing in the top 51.

“It’s great to have numbers,” co-captain Sarah DeLozier ’15 said. “This is such a unique team, and it’s all coming together for us, especially at the end of the year. In the day-to-day, we’re always pushing each other. If our number nine is pushing our number seven, that makes everyone better.”

Jaworski and Giordano said the team’s pack strategy is a key to its success.

“We have to start out fast and be okay with starting off fast,” Giordano said. “You have to start out quickly and then find your teammates immediately and work them or else you will not find them during the race.”

Giordano and DeLozier have stood out on the team this year. The two have been partners since the beginning of the season, finishing one-two in the September Dartmouth Invitational. At the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship meet that Dartmouth won, Giordano finished second overall in a time of 20:28.1, and DeLozier nabbed third in 20:36.1. At regionals, both finished in the top 10, Giordano crossing the line in eighth and DeLozier in ninth.

“It’s been great and awesome to have a workout partner and we really help each other out,” Giordano said. “It’s really inspiring having a team that has so many in close packs during races that you can run for someone more than yourself. It just gets you going a little more.”

Both women will be in the running for All-American performances, which Giordano won last season alongside standout Abbey D’Agostino ’14.

“Having Sarah right on Dana’s shoulders the entire season bodes well for her chances of snagging an All-American,” Jaworski said. “I think for those two, it’s definitely within their reach on the right day.”

The team has excelled in the first year of Jaworski’s tenure, the first year since D’Agostino graduated, repeating as Ivy League champions and qualifying for nationals. Four from last year’s NCAA meet returned this season and will be racing at nationals .

“It speaks a lot to our depth and our team culture,” DeLozier said. “We honestly feel like it’s a privilege to put on the uniform and it’s a really, really fun team to be on.”

DeLozier said that the team set a top-15 NCAA finish as a preseason goal.

The Big Green remains a young team. Only two seniors earned points in the regional meet. Gonzalez, Reid Watson ’16, Sarah Bennett ’16 and Helen Schlachtenhaufen ’17 have been mainstays this season for the team.

Dartmouth was the only Ivy League team to qualify for nationals, and one of four from the Northeast region. The Big Green joins automatic qualifiers Iona University and Providence College and fellow at-large bid recipient Boston College.

The NCAA Championship takes place Saturday.

“The field is extremely talented,” DeLozier said. “Just having a confidence that we do the same training that the other girls do and we prepared ourselves all season for this race, and it’s no different from any other race.”