Rochester, NY -- The United States Merchant Marine Academy women's cross country team ran well, defeating 14 teams at the NCAA Division-III Atlantic Regional Championship Saturday afternoon at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, NY.
Hosted by the University of Rochester, the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship featured a total of 277 runners representing 48 teams. These included many of the nation's fastest programs as exemplified by qualifying the maximum number of teams allowed by a region for the NCAA Championships nearly every year.
This season, the region added four new schools. Although USMMA placed the same as they did last year (34th), they defeated four more programs than in 2011.
Despite the soggy course, it was a good day for racing as the forecast of rain held off for the entirety of the meet.
Senior Gretchen Holoubek, running in the final race of her collegiate career, shattered her lifetime best 6K by a full 32 seconds, coming in with a time of 24:41. This marked the fastest time at an NCAA Regional Championship by a Mariner since 2004 when Callie Beeler ran a 24:14. Head Coach Greg Lott was excited by Holubek's extraordinary effort, "I was very happy to have Gretchen back with us this season. She's a very strong runner who anchored our squad throughout the year. It was wonderful that she was able to set a lifetime best in her final cross country race."
Sophomore captain Amber Kinter, who placed second on the Mariners, bested her 2011 NCAA Regional time by 1:04. Her mark of 26:17 was 38 seconds faster than her fastest run of the season. Coach Lott praised Kinter's leadership abilities throughout the season. "Kinter did an outstanding job captaining the squad. It's a lot to ask of a sophomore, especially in an environment like this. Her leadership will provide continuity to the program for the next couple of seasons."
Sophomore Elizabeth Coulter finished with a time of 26:57; a 42 second improvement of her lifetime best. Coach Lott praised her stability throughout the season, "Ellie is our rock, she runs consistently well and continues to improve, she's a very important cog in our program."
Rounding out the final three runners for Merchant Marine were freshmen Gloria Mahoney, Saxson Londagin, and Emily Bull who ran 27:11, 28:06, and 28:47 respectively. Londagin and Bull fought hard despite being hobbled by injuries. For Mahoney, the race marked her first ever 6K competition.
"Londagin and Bull were not running at 100%," noted Coach Lott. "Yet they gave an effort as if they were. This grit and determination shows that they will be very strong runners for us in the future. Mahoney jumped in after a few weeks off from running. She's really more of a long sprinter that will focus on track, but she held her own out there and I was proud of the way she ran her first ever 6K."
This year's two, three, and four runners ran faster than all but the number one finisher for Kings Point at the same meet in 2011.
The Mariners have improved greatly throughout the 2012 season which included some big moments for the program. USMMA placed first as a team at the Purchase College Invitational, marking the first overall victory for the women's cross country team in several years. Kings Point also had very strong performances at the West Point Open and the NJIT Highlander Invitational placing third and fifth respectively.
"I'm very proud of the way our ladies ended their season," reflected Coach Lott. "They ran their best races collectively of the year and there is no doubt that some injury and illness had a significant effect on the team's season. "The ladies still showed solid improvement as a unit and accomplished some things that hadn't been done in a long time. More importantly, the girls are starting to develop strong unity and a culture of a true team that has never been present here due to numbers. They have a solid core from which to build, and the future looks very bright. I'm truly excited."