Three Go Dancing at NCAAs
The Centennial Conference will be well-represented on Saturday at the NCAA women's cross country championship at . Johns Hopkins, Dickinson and Haverford will have full teams in contention for the title, while Franklin & Marshall and Muhlenberg will send individuals.
The Johns Hopkins women's cross-country team will compete at the NCAA Championships this weekend for the fifth straight year. Centennial Conference Coach of the Year Bobby Van Allen and the Blue Jays will look to improve upon last season's seventh-place finish. In its four previous appearances in the NCAA Championships Hopkins finished 7th (2010 and 2009), 13th (2008) and 29th (2007).
Where They'll Run: The Wisconsin-Oshkosh will host the NCAA DIII women's cross country championships on November 19, at Lake Breeze Golf Course in Winneconne, Wis. The women's race will begin at 12 pm ET.
How They Got Here: JHU won both its fourth consecutive Centennial Conference crown and a fourth straight Mideast Regional Championship this season. The Blue Jays totaled 43 points and placed five runners in the top 12 to capture the conference title and tallied 78 points, with three runners in the top 10 to claim the regional championship. Six Blue Jays earned All-Region honors by finishing in the top 35.
Who to Look For: Freshman Hannah Eckstein and sophomore Holly Clarke who led the Blue Jays to both a Centennial crown and a Mideast Regional title. Freshman Ashley Murphy has had a steady first season for the Blue Jays continually rounding out the top-three runners for the Blue Jays and helping the team to four first-place finishes, including the Lebanon Valley Invite and the Dickinson Long Course Invite earlier this season.
Other Blue Jays to look out for include junior Liz Provost, sophomore Lara Shegoski and freshman Lindsey Sanborn all earned All-Region honors at the Mideast Regional while freshman Frances Loeb earned All-Freshman honors. The final four runners for the Blue Jays will help keep the Blue Jays in a solid position for a team championship.
The Contenders: 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins will be competing with a number of quality teams for the national championship on Saturday. Middlebury enters the race ranked first in the nation and is looking to defend last season's national championship. Second-ranked Washington-St. Louis, last year's runner-up, returns a strong cast despite 2009 and 2010's individual champion, Wendy Pavlus. Williams, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and St. Lawrence enter the race third, fourth and fifth in the nation.
The Haverford College women's cross country team qualified for the NCAA Division III national championship for the 12th time in head coach Fran Rizzo's tenure at the college with an at-large bid on Nov. 12 at the team's regional meet. The Fords will compete in the national race Saturday, Nov. 19.
The starting gun goes off at 12 p.m. eastern standard time (EST) for the women in the six-kilometer course at Lake Breeze Golf Course in Winneconne, Wis. The event is hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
The Fords are led by senior Emily Lipman, a two-time All-American selection. Lipman's seventh-place performance at the NCAA Mideast regional this year paced the Fords to a fourth-place team finish. Lipman is joined by junior Andrea Tocci, who ran to a 14th place regional spot, along with sophomore Emily Scott (26th at regionals) and Alice Vienneau (34th at regionals). Rounding out the top seven are sophomore Flora Berklein and juniors Sheera Rosenbaum and Sara Hess.
Last year's national winner, Middlebury, enters the race as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Three Centennial Conference teams are ranked in the top 30 nationally, as Haverford is No. 28, and Johns Hopkins University (No. 10) and Dickinson College (No. 17) also make the list.
Injuries usually mark the beginning of the end of an athlete's career. But in the case of Muhlenberg cross country runner Samantha Mayden, an injury may have actually saved her career.
Two years after suffering painful shin splints following her freshman season, Mayden will complete what she called a "surreal" turnaround by competing in Saturday's NCAA Championships hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It's the seventh straight year Muhlenberg has sent at least one runner to the national meet.
And while Mayden, who is just the third Mule woman and first since 2007 to qualify for NCAAs, has worked hard to become one of the top runners in the region, she said she nearly gave up on running as a freshman.
"Literally, I started running track when I was in fourth grade, and when I got to my senior year of high school, I kind of got sick of running," Mayden said. "Then I started college, and I was like, 'I'm going to quit. I'm not going to do my training, and I am going to quit.' I just got so burnt out. But once I got those stress fractures, it made me realize how much I love to run."
Mayden couldn't stand being forced to stay still. So when she was finally cleared to run again, she felt a renewed passion for the sport. And since then, she hasn't been able to stop.
She improved a remarkable 152 spots at the 2010 regional meet to place 27th. This year she made the jump to 11th, which she credited to a renewed focus and confidence.
Not only has Mayden great strides each year, but so has the entire women's team. After placing 25th in 2009, the Mules moved up to 12th last fall and then set a new program mark with a seventh-place finish this season. So she is looking at this year's trip as a chance to a get a feel for the race so she can share it with her teammates.
"This is going to be a really great learning experience for me, and hopefully some motivation for the team," Mayden said. "We've improved so much every year; you never know what could happen next year. I kind of feel like I'm the scout, and hopefully we'll all be able to go next year."
Mayden, who hails from Nashville, Tenn., has never been to Wisconsin. She said she expects it to be cold and wouldn't be surprised if it snowed. But after running through a blizzard at the Centennial Conference Championships, she said she is no longer fazed by any adverse conditions.
And after talking with former teammate Bobby Torphy, who qualified for nationals that last two seasons, she said she is not really feeling nervous for this weekend. She doesn't have any expectations are far as placing within a certain group, and added she just wants to enjoy having the opportunity to run on the biggest stage of her career.
"He messaged me after I qualified and said, 'You have to have fun and enjoy yourself.' And that's what I plan on doing," Mayden said. "I'm not going to win; I can't go into nationals thinking I'm going to win because I'm not physically there at this point, and I may never be. But that's OK with me. I hope to do well, but I just want to compete. If I have a really good day and am running with people that would usually be ahead of me, that would be great. No matter what happens, this should be a really exciting experience."