BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College women's cross country team is set to make the trek to the United States Soldiers and Airmen's Home on Saturday, November 2 for the 2013 Landmark Conference Championships hosted by The Catholic University of America. The six-kilometer race is slated to start at 11:00 a.m.
Moravian was picked to win its second Landmark Conference title in three years in the Landmark Preseason Poll released back in August. The Greyhounds were the runner-up to Catholic a year ago by 12 points, and Moravian won the 2011 title in the snow at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus as the squad finished eight points ahead of Goucher College.
"Despite the preseason polls, we're not the favorite on the women's side," stated third-year Head Coach Jesse Baumann. "We just lost to Scranton two weeks ago, and Susquehanna has posted some really good times throughout the season so we don't have the pressure of the expectations as far as I see it. As with the men, there is a different style of racing and focus going into this meet where we're not worried about paces or splits between the second to third mile, which you have to do in the invites we've run thus far when you're in the middle of a big field and it's more challenging to pick out specific people to race against. Now that's different, and we know who to focus on and how better to approach the race, especially after already seeing the course back in September. It gives us a new challenge to focus on and helps to dampen the nervous energy heading in."
Moravian does have three experienced runners to lead the squad with junior Claire Del Casale leading the way. Del Casale ran a PR of 23:02 at the Princeton University Invitational two weeks ago on a course that was longer than 6K, and she is a two-time All-Conference honoree after making the Second Team last fall and the First Team in 2011 as a freshman. Del Casle has been the Landmark Conference Runner of the Week twice this fall.
"We've gone after fast times at other races, and will discuss that more going into Regionals, but that's really not the focus for this race," Baumann said. "In fact, I'm going to give Claire and the rest of our team splits not to hit the first mile because I don't want them getting out too quickly this meet. We're really focusing on runners, and from what we've been able to tell so far this season, Katrina Woods (Juniata), Ashley West (Susquehanna), Cara Notarianni (Scranton) and Claire are the four favorites going into the meet, so we're just trying to key off that pack and finish as high as we can against that group of runners."
Juniors Jessie Goldberg and Emily Lambright have also fared well in the conference meet the last two years. Goldberg earned Second Team All-Conference honors last season while Lambright made the Second Team in 2011. Junior Devon Bedell is expected to contribute for the Greyhounds along with freshmen Sarah Hughes, Larissa Strycharz, Erin Love and Meg Brockett.
"One of our top runners has been battling an illness that we're still trying to diagnose, but aside from that everyone is healthy and ready," Baumann said. "The freshmen have been adapting to the 6K distance, and we have had some of the best workouts I've ever had with a women's team I've coached over these past few weeks. The fitness and preparation are all there, now it's just a matter of doing what we're capable of during the race."