By Dennis Young
(Center Valley, Pa.) - On a perfect day for distance running at DeSales University, the Dickinson College women's cross-country team locked up an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national championship.
They did so by finishing second overall with 99 points, trailing only Johns Hopkins, who had 78. Two quick stats: those two teams have finished in those places (Hopkins first, Dickinson second) at the Mideast Regional meet the last four years in a row, or since your author was a first-year in college. And the Dickinson women have qualified for nationals every year since your author was in seventh grade, as the last year that they didn't make it was 2001.
Sophomore Taylor Ludman (Willow Street, Pa./Solanco) led the charge for Dickinson, winning the race in 22:33. Her win was certainly an upset, as she was only the fifth returner, and a close race (Ludman won by one second) would seem to favor speedier runners. The second place runner, Sheena Crawley from F&M, holds faster PRs than Ludman in both the 800 and 1500 meters on the track. But it did not really matter, as Ludman had the resolve and strategy to win her second consecutive major championship.
One last historical note, the last time a Dickinson woman won the regional title was 2006. The runner was Cait Bradley '08, who went on to finish second at nationals.
The Red Devils' second finisher, senior Catherine Campbell (Carlisle, Pa./Trinity) found herself in a familiar spot. Two weeks ago at conferences, Ludman won and Campbell finished fourth. And a year ago at regionals, Campbell finished fourth. So, today, it was no major shock when Campbell found herself crossing the line in fourth place, just six seconds behind her victorious teammate.
The top 35 runners are awarded All-Region, and the Dickinson women had two more athletes earn that honor. Sophomore Emily Miller (Lenhartsville, PA/Kutztown Area) was 18th in 23:41, and classmate Sarah Patterson (Houston, Texas/St. Johns School) was 25th in 23:53. Both had extremely strong races and seem to have turned the corner after inconsistent starts early in the season.
Senior Merit O'Hare (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny), on the other hand, has been the picture of consistency, as she's been the Devils' fourth or fifth runner for each of the last three races. O'Hare finished fifth on the team and 51st overall. This was a major improvement over her last regional meet two years ago, where she finished 83rd.
The Dickinson women return to competition a week from today at the big show: the NCAA Division III national championships on November 19 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.