HANOVER, N.H. – For the 10th time in program history, the Dartmouth women will head to the NCAA Cross Country Championship Meet as a team on Saturday afternoon.
Making their record-setting appearance, and the first since 2001, the Big Green will head to Terre Haute and the 2013 NCAA Championship hosted by Indiana State alongside Princeton and Cornell. The Tigers, like the Green and White, will also be making their 10th all-time appearance at nationals, giving the two programs the Ivy League record for appearances.
However, Dartmouth is the only one of the three Ancient Eight squads to automatically qualify for the meet, claiming second at the NCAA Northeast Regional last Friday at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Princeton and Cornell were two of the 13 teams to earn at-large berths, giving the Ivy League three programs at NCAAs for the first time since that 2001 race that featured the Big Green, the Big Red, Yale, Columbia and Brown.
With expectations high for the team, they are even higher for senior Abbey D'Agostino, who enters the race as the favorite to claim the one individual national title that has eluded her in her collegiate career. A second-place finish a year ago in Louisville by just seventh-tenths of a second was a heartbreaking end to an outstanding junior season, but was also the best finish ever by an Ivy League runner, male or female, at the NCAA Championship.
As a sophomore and in her first full season of cross country in 2011, D’Agostino was third by just 1.7 seconds. That race was also held in Terre Haute and is the same course the Big Green will compete on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Now, more determined than ever, the Topsfield, Mass., native will look to add the final piece of hardware to her trophy case still missing. A four-time national champion between indoor and outdoor track seasons, a win by D’Agostino on Saturday would cement her title as the best collegiate distance runner in the country.
One more title would also put her in rarified air amongst Ivy League student-athletes dating back to 1883. In the last 130 years, only four other individuals have won at least four national titles on their own (no relays or tennis doubles play) with just one of those four a woman (Columbia swimmer Cristina Teuscher ’00). Dartmouth skier Chiharu Igaya ’57 is the most decorated individual ever at an Ivy League school with six titles won between 1955-57. Another triumph by D’Agostino would give her five and Dartmouth both the winningest male and female student-athletes in the storied history of the conference.
This season, the senior harrier is a perfect 5-for-5 in meets in which she has competed. Her average margin of victory is an astonishing 28.2 seconds, including a record-setting 39.2 second win at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship earlier this month. D’Agostino has not only beaten regional competitors, but also twice has picked up victories at key national races at both the Paul Short and Wisconsin Invitationals.
But one runner does not make a team.
After two trips to nationals by herself, D’Agostino will finally be joined by her teammates in Terre Haute in 2013 after Dartmouth put together a solid outing at the Northeast Regional a week ago.
All five scoring members of the Big Green claimed spots in the top-30, putting a good deal of points between themselves (84) and third-place Syracuse (135).
Junior Sarah Delozier and sophomore Dana Giordano helped create that depth with 13th- and 17th-place showings, respectively. Sophomore Elizabeth Markowitz and Alison Lanois claimed 26th and 27th places, respectively, to round out the scoring and punch Dartmouth’s ticket back to nationals for the first time in a dozen years.
When running with their top seven, the 2013 Ivy League Champions have been a force all season, earning four top-three finishes. A seventh-place showing at Wisconsin’s adidas Invitational on Oct. 19 in a field of 37 top teams from across the country showed that this year’s Big Green were going to compete with the nation’s elite as they elevated themselves to that status with a ranking hovering around No. 10 for a majority of the fall.
In addition to the 31 teams, 38 individuals will also line up in Terre Haute on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. for the 6K race. Providence seems to be the odds-on-favorite to take the team crown as the Friars have held the No. 1 ranking most of the year and were the only team to finish higher than the Big Green at Van Cortlandt Park last weekend. Emily Sisson of Providence is also one of the biggest threats to D’Agostino’s title hopes as she came the closest to Dartmouth’s top runner this season, finishing nearly 11 seconds back at regionals.