W. Cross Country building steam

Colby Women’s Cross Country entered the season ranked seventh in the region, but has been close on the heels of the New England powerhouses vying for a spot in the top five.  Colby has been led on the trails by head coach Deb Aitken who is entering her 30th year on the Hill. Aitken returns a seasoned squad that is led by standouts Krista Brown ’16 and Alana McDonough ’16 in addition to a score of veteran junior and senior runners.

Colby began its season looking to hold onto its seventh ranking, but were surprised at home by a fast squad from Bates. McDonough and Brown demonstrated their experience flying by the pack, easily capturing first and second respectively. McDonough was the only runner to break 19 minutes, with a time of 18:51. Brown was 11 seconds behind at 19:02, but she finished nearly 40 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher.

Despite the strong performance by the top runners in the Junior/Senior Race, the rest of Colby’s top seven were unable to match the result, ceding spots three through seven to Bates to grant them the win. In the Freshman/Sophomore Race, Bates’s young talent shone as they captured all but two spots in the top ten to clinch the win. The Bobcats won the meet with a combined score of 65-45. For her performance, McDonough was named NESCAC Women’s Cross Country Performer of the Week.

The Mules then travelled up to Middlebury to compete in the Aldrich Invitational, which features competitive teams from all across New England. Colby took the third spot, behind strong performances from McDonough and Taylor Kennedy ’18. McDonough finished seventh with a time of 19:19 and Kennedy finished in 19:41. Rounding out the top three runners for Colby was Dylan Allies ’16 who had a top fifteen finish, with a 20:21 time.

One of the most competitive meets in Division III is the Purple Valley Invitational, which features 26 of the best teams in the nation, such as MIT, Williams, and Amherst. Colby was again led by Brown, McDonough, and Kennedy who all finished in the top 40. Brown came in tenth place with a time of 22:59 and shortly behind her was McDonough who finished at 23:26 in 21st. Despite being less than 30 seconds behind McDonough, Kennedy finished in 38th place with a time of 23:52. Aitken has been impressed with Kennedy’s strong running, and has named her as a solid number three runner for the squad.

In the Colby Invitational, the Mules easily dominated a field consisting of Central Maine schools. Colby was resting their top runners, but was still able to remain competitive, with four runners placing in the top ten. Margaret Giles ’18 placed fourth overall, followed by Emily Tolman ’16 in fifth, Maggie Hojlo ’17 in eighth, and Kate Kerin ’17 in ninth.

Aitken was optimistic about the remainder of the season, saying in an email, “If we can keep everyone healthy and move our top five into a closer pack with numbers six and seven, also closing the gap to number five, then we are going to make a run for the fifth spot at NESCAC’s (The top 4, Williams, Middlebury, Tufts and Amherst are all Nationally ranked fourth, sixth, eighth, and 14th).”

“We should have a very competitive race at States with Bates. Husson is also much improved. We don’t have the depth that some of our opponents have, so keeping everyone healthy will be the key to any and all success that we have. We’ll take it one meet at a time.”