Cross country set for Nationals
At George Mason University in Virginia last weekend, men's and women's cross country fulfilled their season-long goals and qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Both squads finished first in their districts, locking up bids to the season-ending meet at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn.
In order to qualify for Nationals, a team needs to place in the top two in its district to receive a bid. With teams such as Boston University and a host of Ivy League rivals looking to displace them, the Big Green secured their hold among the elite of the Eastern teams.
"We had a feeling that we would be going to Nationals," Maribel Sanchez '96 said. "It's going to be tough and some teams might surprise us, but if we run the way we ran last weekend, we'll be fine."
Junior Meegan Larsen led the Big Green with a seventh place finish, followed by Kristin Cobb '95 at ninth. Captain Tori Knox '94, Maribel Sanchez '96 and freshman Heather Worley were hot on their heels in 17th, 18th and 19th place, respectively.
"We had some outstanding performances on Saturday," Coach Ellen O'Neil said. "We had a really tight pack of runners, which was certainly a positive force for us."
The Big Green's strong showing at districts secured them a 12th place ranking which serves as a motivating force for the team.
The 3-kilometer course at Lehigh should prove to be an asset to Dartmouth who an extra edge of familiarity in its corner.
"Lehigh is definitely a plus for us," Sanchez said. "We've run there before and we know the course and what to look for."
"We're trying to build on last year's finish," O'Neil added. "I think that to make it last year was a great accomplishment, but this year we're going to try to focus on improving our place and paying closer attention to where we are in the race."
Leading the way for the men was Co-Captain Ted FitzPatrick '95 who came in second place overall. Sam Wilbur '95 was seconds behind in third, followed by Co-Captain Derek West '94 in 20th place.
Overall, the Big Green edged out Boston University which secured the second place finish in their district.
The result was doubly satisfying for the Big Green, who were disappointed with their finish at this year's Heptagonals where they finished third. Coach Barry Harwick said that the team "thought we were capable of running a lot better" than their Heps performance.
"We've been shooting for Nationals all year," West said, "but we still have goals looking at us in the future. Nationals is the type of race where if you go out there and act like it's just another day at the office, you'll do great. A lot of teams tend to overextend themselves. We'll need to take it seriously but not get over-anxious."
Harwick points out that the course, slightly longer than normal, should work in Dartmouth's favor as "we do a lot of strength training."
Despite the tremendous competition, Harwick has confidence in his team's ability to hold its own against the top cross country teams in the country.
"We're earned our spot and we think we'll be competitive," Harwick said. "We were mentally ready at Virginia and now we're excited but pragmatic."
Both squads travel to Lehigh on Nov. 22 to square off with the 22 top cross country teams in the nation. For only the third time in history, the Big Green qualified both squads for Nationals, the first time since 1989.