NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Despite fielding a youthful roster comprised of eight freshmen and 11 underclassmen total on a squad of 18, the Merrimack women's cross country team went above and beyond preseason expectations, as the Warriors posted a first-place finish in one race and saw several individuals excel on the course this season.
Highlighted by freshman runner Kerry Phelan (Peabody, Mass.) being named the Northeast-10 Conference Female Rookie of the Year, the Warriors posted top-five team finishes in a pair of races en route to placing sixth out of 16 teams in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship on Oct. 20.
Phelan ran well beyond her years in an exciting first season with the program. The Peabody, Mass., Native began the season by helping her relay team place fifth at the Skyhawk Invitational before going on to place a season-best third at the Rivier Invitational on Sept. 21.
The rookie then ran to a 15th-place finish at the NE-10 Championships, which helped her clinch the Female Rookie of the Year honor. Phelan was a three-time NE-10 Rookie of the Week, as well, capping off her season by posting the top freshman time for any female runner in the NCAA Regional Championship on Nov. 4.
"This season as a whole was a testament to the conditioning and the hard work that these young student-athletes endured for over three months," head coach Chris Cameron said afterward. "I truly think we improved with each passing race. We fought through an array of injuries that might have cost us a chance at posting some better team finishes, but overall, I was very pleased with our efforts this fall. We have a good, young core that I feel will make us much more competitive next year."
Merrimack ran to a fifth-place finish out of eight squads at the River Hawk Invitational back on Sept. 15 before winning the Rivier Invitational on Sept. 21, as the Warriors finished on top of an 11-team field.
Two weeks later, and led by Phelan, the Warriors ran to a valiant 28th-place finish in the New England Championships on Oct. 7. In a field of 37 total teams, Merrimack managed to top Division I foe Northeastern and fellow Northeast-10 Conference rivals Saint Michael's, Saint Anselm, UMass-Lowell, New Haven and Franklin Pierce, as well. Phelan, meanwhile, set a new school record in the 5-kilometer race with a time of 18:43.19, leading the pack for the Warrior women.
Finally, the Warriors wrapped up the season in sixth place at the NE-10s before placing ninth out of 28 teams in the NCAA Regionals on Nov. 4.
Phelan was not alone in leading the Warriors on the season, as fellow underclassman Kelsey Grimmer (Shelton, Conn.) notched a pair of top-10 finishes on the year along with an 11th-place finish at the NE-10s. The sophomore from Shelton, Conn., earned All-NE-10 Second Team honors, in the process, while Phelan was tabbed to the All-Conference NE-10 Third Team.
Grimmer's best race came in the Rivier Invitational, when she finished just behind Phelan in fourth place with a time of 18:53. Senior Anne Bajor (Methuen, Mass.) got off to a great start in her first three races, helping her relay team place fifth at the Skyhawk Relays before posting an impressive sixth-place finish with a time of 19:00 at the Rivier Invitational before missing the final three events with an injury.
Fellow seniors Julie Binney (South Easton, Mass.), Andrea Chapa-Cerviatti (Holden, Mass.) and Christina Fisher (Manfield Center, Conn.) also were integral to the team's success. Binney saw action in four events – including a 33rd-place finish at the Rivier Invitational – while both Chapa-Cerviatti and Fisher each participated in four and five races, respectively.
Graduating only four seniors and bringing back a wealth of depth and talent, Cameron hopes a much healthier squad – coupled with added experience to his young-but-promising group – will catapult the Warriors to even greater heights in 2013.
"I really think the sky's the limit with this bunch," Cameron said. "We were a little bit unlucky with the injury bug this year but if we can work on staying healthy, work on tightening the pack between our No. 1 and No. 5 runners in our team events, I think this is a team that can surprise some people next fall."
For updates on Merrimack women's cross country throughout the offseason, check back online at www.merrimackathletics.com.
This is the second in a series of recaps summarizing a successful fall season at Merrimack.
November 29: Women's Crew
November 30: Women's Cross Country
December 3: Women's Golf
December 4: Men's Cross Country
December 5: Volleyball
December 6: Women's Soccer
December 7: Football
December 10: Field Hockey
December 11: Men's Soccer