The Big Apple bites the dust: runners sweep the competition
Two hundred forty-one women tensed their muscles and leaned slightly forward, their heads down and ears pricked for the sound of the starting gun. Moments later they simultaneously charged forward, jostling each other as they converged into the long opening stretch of the NYU Cross Country Invitational at the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park last weekend.
Nineteen minutes and fourteen seconds later, Audra Caler '05 shot into the finishing chute in fourth place, leading the way for Bowdoin's third place team finish. Twelve seconds behind Caler, Neoma Palmer '07 flew into fifth place. Caler and Palmer were the highest-finishing pair of teammates.
Aside from Wesleyan and the Technical College of New Jersey (the only two of 23 teams to defeat Bowdoin) no other school boasted five runners out of the top 30 places. Ellen Beth '05, Kristen Brownell '07, and Kala Hardacker '04 finished 16, 22, and 27, respectively, all within 20 seconds of each other.
Beth and Brownell sprinted by the fourth and fifth runners from TCNJ, finishing in 20:07 and 20:19 respectively. Hardacker beat Wesleyan's fifth runner by half a second, passing the finish line in 20:27. These final bursts of speed narrowed the gap between Bowdoin and the winning teams. "I predict that the top three teams from this meet will go to the NCAA's," Coach Peter Slovenski said after the race.
Since the top five finishers from each team determine the score in cross country meets, and the lowest score wins, a top five as tight as Bowdoin's was imperative to team success at meets as large as this one.
"It was tough going into such a large meet against teams that we don't usually compete against, because we were not really sure how the competition would match up," said Hardacker. Caler, Palmer, Beth, Brownell, and Hardacker worked through the course together, pacing and supporting each other. "We raced smart from the back of the pack," said Hardacker.
Slovenski relies on the dual strategies of teamwork and negative splitting in workouts and races, encouraging his athletes to run together, starting out conservatively and gradually speeding up. His tactic again proved to be successful, as each pack of Polar Bears finished close together and ahead of most of their competitors.
Lynne Davies '04, Katie Landry '05, and Allie Yanikoski '06 formed the second pack of Bowdoin women, staying close together through the first mile and a half. Landry and Davies raced on together in unison, finishing one second apart (21:28 and 21:29), sixth and seventh for Bowdoin, respectively.
After missing indoor and outdoor track because of an injury, Landry proved that she remains a powerful force in women's distance running, and a vital component of the varsity top seven.
Bowdoin's top seven beat approximately 75 percent of all competitors, and all ten of the Bears who raced finished in the top half of the field. Yanikoski, Jill Schweitzer '06, and Claire Discenza '04 claimed 85th, 120th, and 136th places, completing the five kilometer race within a minute of each other. "The NYU Invitational was a great race for us as a team, as we made our goal of placing in the top three," said Hardacker.
"The warm up felt great - and the race did too," said Beth.
"It was hot out, but I feel like our freshmen just keep surprising
us with their speed. Plus, it's great to have Katie Landry racing again!
All in all [it was] a good day."