Saints Head Into National Championship with Confidence, Cymerman, Howard Earn Regional Awards
Nov. 14: Going into the 2012 cross country season, St. Lawrence University coach Mike Howard thought he had the makings of a good women's team despite the graduation of two of last year's top five and the transfer of a third.
He might not have expected his team to be as good as it is heading into Saturday's NCAA Division III Championship hosted by Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute, IN.
The Saints swept the major meets at the end of the season for the fourth straight year, winning the New York State Collegiate Track and Field Conference cross country championship for the fifth straight time with one of the best scores in program history, the Liberty League title with a nearly perfect 19 points and then recording the lowest score in program history in winning the Atlantic Regional Championship at Rochester. They head into Saturday's NCAA championship ranked sixth in the country after having been in the six or seven range in the polls throughout the season.
Led by junior Amy Cymerman, who was named U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, the Saints have dominated New York State competition and now take aim at a bigger stage.Cymerman won the Liberty League and Atlantic Regional titles and was second in the NYSCTC Championship as part of a big finish to her year.
"We are running with a lot of confidence right now," said Howard, who was named Atlantic Regional Women's Coach of the Year. "It has developed throughout the season...winning states, then the Liberty League and then the regional is an obvious boost in confidence. The way weran the and that we won as big as we did at the regional surprised a lot of people, but we knew we could have of that kind of performance.
"I felt if we ran the way we were capable, we could get results similar to what we got at the regional race. I couldn't have asked for much more...they all executed their race plan very well and finished very close to where we thought we could finish. We will have the same conversations before the championship race that we did before the regional, and I am confident we can do some good things."
The Saints have three runners who have been there before when it comes to the national stage. Cymerman was a consistent top five runner as a sophomore and was the fifth scorer for the Saints at the championship a year ago as the team finished eighth. Senior Jackie Lemme was the third runner for the team at the NCAAs and senior Caroline Raue was sixth in the Saint lineup. The rest of the seven runners for the Saints at the NCAA meet will run in the championship for the first time...rookies Ella Martin and Margaret MacDonald, junior Ariel Beccia and grad student Lizzy Edwards.
"We talked early in the year and felt that we had some impact runners among the younger kids, but the experience of the juniors and seniors would count at the end, and that is just what has happened," said Howard. "The juniors and seniors have helped bring the younger kids along and have provided some excellent leadership down the stretch. I think going into nationals we are in a really good place as a team."
Howard feels the 2012 national championship team race is wide open. "Cross country is one day, one race and you are relying on five of your seven runners to have a perfect day for you. You just never know if it is going to happen. But, we have as good a chance as any other team...although there are probably 10 other teams that can say the same thing. This is one of those years where there is no runaway favorite.
"If you look at the results and rankings and if we can execute our race plan, the opportunity is there if everything comes together."