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Women Finish Hard, Just Miss Qualifying

By Stanley Hu

STAFF REPORTER

Despite numerous injuries and sicknesses, the women’s cross-country team finished almost 100 points ahead of their score last year at the NCAA Divison III Regional Qualifying Meet.

Fighting the aftereffects of strep throat and hamstring tightness, Martha W. Buckley ’04 raced down the homestretch of the championship meet.

Coach Paul Slovenski started doing the math.

It was going to be close. Did she qualify for Nationals?

Buckley finished 31st. Slovenski knew that wasn’t going to be good enough today. “I’d feel a lot better if she were 25th,” Slovenski said before knowing the results. Only the first nine individuals not on the top five finishing teams advanced.

Slovenski was right on the dot. Buckley came eerily close to qualifying, but the cutoff point turned out to be exactly 25th place. Buckley clocked 22:32 over the 3.7-mile race, just seven seconds shy of the last qualifying spot.

“She knew it would be a long shot,” said Slovenski. “She said she was ready to pack it in at the 3.1-mile mark, but nobody passed her, and she never slowed down. For her to come back from strep throat after taking a week off just shows her grit.”

Strong team finishes

With that, the women’s cross-country team season ended last Saturday, but not before the team posted one of its best performances in recent memory, with a 14th place finish among 38 teams. Williams College captured the team title, and freshman Caroline Cretti from Williams won the race in 20:35.

While Williams dominated the meet, MIT held its own. Buoyed by a number of races from both freshmen and veterans, the women’s cross country team improved by 96 points from last year’s finish.

In her second race returning from a hip injury, Julia C. Espel ’05 finished second for the team, clocking 23:28 in 64th place. That was payback for Espel, who last year hurt her foot during the race and finished a disappointing 137th. “She had something to prove, and she did it,” Slovenski said.

MIT team shows ‘guts’

Veronica A. Andrews ’05 followed in 23:41, placing a consistent third for the team. Starting slowly, she hung behind the pack before charging ahead from 150th to 77th place.

Not far behind, Valerie Kuo ’06 and Kathleen R. Huffman ’04 both dipped under 100th place, finishing in 23:57 and 23:59, respectively. Elizabeth R. Eames ’06 and Jennifer A. Gaugler ’05 rounded out the team in 24:34 and 25:49.

“They raced their hearts out,” Slovenski said. “Almost all of them ran through injury or illness on sheer guts,” he said. “We were noticeably depleted this year, but we hung in for the championships. We’ll reload and be better next year.”