Cross Country: Top rookies look for stellar sophomore campaigns
In 2004, Amherst finished 12th in the National Championship Meet and had a pair of third-place efforts in the NESCAC and ECAC Championship Meets. Throughout the season, the Jeffs were consistently ranked second in national polls, tying the best ranking ever for an Amherst women’s squad.
The women’s team’s success over the past four years was largely due to the spectacular running of Carter Hamill ’05. Unfortunately for this year’s team, the four-year All-American has graduated and left very large (and fast) shoes to fill. But the 2005 Jeffs seem up to the challenge.
This season, junior co-captain Shauneen Garrahan will be the front runner of a very talented group. Garrahan has already proven herself on the national level after securing the 24th spot in last season’s National Championship Meet. That effort earned her cross country All-America honors for the second year in a row. Following a stellar 2004 cross country campaign, Garrahan placed second in the mile run at the Indoor Track National Championships and became the steeple chase National Champion in the outdoor season. Garrahan is a seasoned runner and should lead Amherst to a spectacular fall.
Joining Garrahan at the front of the pack will be Kim Partee ’08. Partee was the NESCAC Rookie of the Year last season and consistently placed in Amherst’s top three. She claimed 14th in the conference meet but was plagued by injuries at the end of the cross country season. Those injuries prevented Partee from competing in indoor and outdoor track events. Hopefully with the long rest Partee is healed and ready for another strong fall campaign.
Senior co-captain Margaret Davis will have a huge impact on Amherst’s success this year. After being injured for most of the 2004 cross country season, Davis had a healthy spring and competed in the 10,000-meter run at the National Championship meet. With Davis healthy, Amherst has a deadly front pack.
With all that power up front, it’s hard to believe that the Jeffs also have amazing depth. Senior Ginger Polich and sophomores Katie Moravec, Heather Wilson and Laura Mortimer were all part of Amherst’s top seven at some point last fall, with Moravec and Mortimer earning All-ECAC honors.
In addition, the Jeffs have the benefit of five first-year runners. “[First-years] Nicole Anderson, Zandra Walton, Caitlin McDermott-Murphy, Liz Dalton and Tovah Ackerman all could have an impact, and I imagine that a couple of them will factor into the scoring but the great thing about this class is that, unlike last year, our success is not going to hinge on them,” said Head Coach Erik Nedeau. “Last year, we really needed the first-years to race great for us to be a strong team, but this year they can develop and if they factor, it just makes us that much stronger. There is no pressure for them to have to step into a scoring role.”
Staying healthy will be key for Amherst this fall. If they do, the Jeffs will have the talent to do as well as, or better than, last year. “We expect to have a great season,” said Davis. “[We have a] solid group of runners that all have the potential to make a significant impact on the team.”
The men’s cross country team lost three of its top four runners due to graduation. Dave Molina, Jack Morgan and two-time All-New England selection Matt Katz were the seniors on the 2004 squad that placed 10th in the New England District race.
Though they are losing depth up front, the Jeffs still have their number-one runner from 2004. Tomas Morrissey ’08 returns to lead the Jeffs after missing the National Championship meet by one place in his rookie campaign. He finished 11th in the NESCAC Championships and earned NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors.
Also returning is junior Rich Wilson. Wilson had a breakout season last fall and consistently came in fifth for Amherst. He will be a critical runner for the Jeffs in 2005.
The rest of the Amherst pack will be led by senior co-captains Dave Schreiner and Evan Guiney. Amherst will look to a strong core of runners (juniors Cooper Knowlton, Fraser Kitchell, Nate Freese and sophomore Mike Harbus) to step up. Also, Harrison Lakehomer ’09 could have an impact this year.
“The key for the men will be finding consistency in our racing that was lacking at times last year,” said Nedeau. “With three top runners graduating, people will have to step up and fill those holes, but they are going to need to fill them each weekend, and not just for one race. We had some great performances from people last year, but it was not week to week, and that will be a key for us.”
There is plenty of opportunity for the younger runners to have a prominent role on this year’s squad, and if and when they do, Amherst will have great potential this fall.
“This year we hope to have a much better showing for the end of season championship races,” said Schreiner. “Early on in the training we’re looking to focus on mental outlook about running and also on paying closer attention to the care that our bodies need to stay healthy and fit.”
The cross country team will be relying on its team chemistry to build a solid team. “ACXC has always gotten along very well and generally provided a healthy training environment, conducive to success,” Schreiner added. “The idea this year is to build off of our hardworking, but also a little rowdy, outlook and channel all that energy toward running good races in the end of October and, ideally, on into the second half of November.”
The biggest races for the cross country squad will be at the end of the season, including the NESCAC Championships and the District Qualifier.
The men and women open the season by hosting the Amherst Invitational on Sept. 10.