D'Agostino places third at NCAAs

by Matt Stanton | 11/21/11 11:00pm

Abbey D'Agostino '14 finished higher at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday than any other runner in Dartmouth history.
by Courtesy of hepstrack.com / The Dartmouth

D'Agostino finished the six-kilometer course in Terre Haute, Ind., in a time of 19:42.9, just 1.7 seconds behind Villanova University fifth-year senior Sheila Reid, the national champion. Shaw crossed the line in 30:24.8, good for a 54th place finish in the 10-kilometer course.

A high level of enthusiasm was evident throughout the throng of fans who assembled along the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at Indiana State University to watch the top 506 male and female collegiate runners in the country compete for 80 All-American spots. D'Agostino said the atmosphere was "exciting."

"People were swarming from end to end to watch as the runners came around the bends in the course," D'Agostino said. "Some fans carried flags and had painted chests. It felt like an important race and I think that made the runners really focus."

The environment proved helpful to D'Agostino, who ran to a brutally close third-place finish in the women's field of 254 runners. Georgetown University won the race overall.

In the final 200 meters, D'Agostino made a strong kick that put her in a great position to ensnare the lead, but her legs could not quite propel her past Reid and University of Oregon junior Jordan Hasay, who finished 1.1 seconds ahead of D'Agostino to nab the second-place spot.

"I wish I'd stayed a little bit closer to the front of the pack throughout the race," D'Agostino said. "In the end, they just had another gear that I couldn't find."

Despite falling short of first place, D'Agostino's finish is the best NCAA Championship that a Big Green runner has recorded in the cross country program's history for either the men's or women's team. The last Dartmouth runner to come that close to a national title was Bob Kempainen '88, who placed fourth in the men's race in 1986.

D'Agostino's third-place finish earned her All-American status a prestigious honor bestowed upon the top 40 runners in both the men's and women's races.

"I'm really happy with how it all played out," D'Agostino said. "It's satisfying to know that I'm up there."

D'Agostino said her confidence stemmed from a two-part pre-race strategy.

"To tuck in with the front of the pack and not do any work until the end," she said. "Not letting external variables get in the way."

After a devastating ankle injury during her freshman season, D'Agostino returned with a vengeance, and is now primed to be a contender for the national title next season.

"It's just amazing the progress she's made in so little time, and it could really foreshadow an exciting future for Abbey," women's cross country head coach Mark Coogan said. "It's really cool to see an Ivy League runner competing among the top runners in the country and excelling."

For Shaw who entered Dartmouth his freshman year as a self-described "average" recruit simply reaching the national level of competition was a tremendous accomplishment.

A week before yesterday's race, Shaw said that "running well at Nationals would be huge a big reward for all the hard work I've put into running." While he fell 14 spots short of achieving All-American honors, Shaw still had an excellent race, running less than 13 seconds off the All-American pace.

"He ran a pretty smart race and beat a lot of really good runners," men's cross country head coach Barry Harwick said. "While he didn't make All-American status, he should be very proud of the way he ran."

The University of Wisconsin won the men's team title, while University of Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang took home the individual championship.

Nationals marked Shaw's last race for Dartmouth's cross country team, but Harwick, who is also the men's track head coach, said he believes Shaw will run well in the indoor and outdoor track seasons in the upcoming months.

"Ethan's work ethic has made him very successful in track," Harwick said. "We aren't going to do anything drastically different training-wise. We'll just ratchet up the intensity a bit and hope for some good results."

Before the indoor track season begins with the Dartmouth Relays on Jan. 6, both Shaw and D'Agostino plan to take a brief, well-deserved break.

"I'm going to take a week off and then start working on my base mileage," D'Agostino said. "Hopefully after a little break and relaxing I'll come back ready to go."