Women's XC wins Maine title
The finishing chute was set across Bowdoin’s soccer, softball and ultimate frisbee fields, yet in a flash of white jerseys, the Colby women’s cross country team made the course its own.
The Mules placed four of the top six runners at Saturday’s State of Maine Championship en route to winning the program’s 11th state title. Sophomore Amy Tortorello took first overall on the 5-kilometer course with a time of 18:52.74, passing Bowdoin first-year Carolyn Baskir in the final 400 meters. Teammates Berol Dewdney ’13, Layne Schwab ’13 and co-captain Emma Linhard ’11 finished second (19:00.43), fifth (19:27.92) and sixth (19:28.37) respectively.
Colby was ranked 24th in Division III entering the race, and will likely rise in the tables after Saturday’s victory. Only Middlebury (first), Williams (third) and Amherst (17th) lead Colby in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).
“I thought it was a great team effort from our runners,” said Coach Deb Aitken. “I knew that Bowdoin would be giving us a run for our money, and they did. It was a very exciting meet with three different pack races going on [during] the entire race within the top 14 [runners]. Our runners ran a very patient and strong race…Berol passed Baskir with about 15 [yards] to go.”
Linhard, who fell in last week’s race, rebounded well to finish near the top of pack. “Kate Connolly ’14, Claire Dunn ’13 and Allie Rigby ’14 have been a closing force on our team,” added Aitken. “Usually no more than three seconds apart, they put three Colby runners between Bowdoin’s fourth and fifth runners, clinching our win.”
On the men’s side, the race served as a lesson in early speed. Bowdoin and Bates took off and never looked back, taking the top nine spots between them (five of which went to first-years). For Colby, Ben Cunkelman ’11 finished 22nd overall in 27:01.63 over the five-mile course, with senior captain Andy Maguire ’11 (25th, 27:08.28), Tom Letourneau ’13 (29th, 27:18.66), John Williams ’13 (34th, 27:35.95) and Brian Desmond ’13 (37th, 27:43.03) rounding out the Mules’ top five. Chris Halladay ’12 (27:55.72), Matthew Cloherty ’14 (27:58.12), Matthieu Nadeau ’12 (28:31.19), Justin Rouse ’12 (28:38.77) and Dylan Nisky ’14 (28:44.63) all placed in the top half of the 140-runner field.
“Perhaps it’s not the giant leap you always love to see in this sort of situation,” said Coach Jared Beers, “but we need to remember that Bowdoin and Bates are currently ranked second and sixth in New England and are much improved over last year—and we still ended up better than last year.” Indeed, Colby’s top seven finished in places 22, 25, 29, 34 and 37 in 2010 as opposed to 18, 27, 32, 40 and 41 in 2009.
“The race went out hard, as expected,” said Maguire. “Unfortunately, the nature of the course and the meet itself strung out the Colby runners and we weren't able to run together as well as we hoped. However, we did manage to run consistently with our strategy of pushing hardest over the second half.”
Added Rouse, “At a big meet like the State Championship you are always looking for a little magic, but it just wasn't there on Saturday. We are all really looking forward to the NESCAC Championships at Hamilton on the 31st and hope that the magic comes there.”
The Mules have next week off in preparation for the NESCAC Championships. “Team running will be critical,” said Maguire, “and we expect the varsity group to make moves up on the competition together. Hamilton's course should play to our advantages better than Bowdoin's flat course.”
Added Aitken for the women, “we only have ‘big races’ ahead of us. We will have to run even better at NESCACs and at the NCAA Regional Qualifier to place in the top four to five of each race. We have plenty of challenges ahead of us, but I believe this win was another step in getting to our ultimate goal: qualifying for nationals as a team.”