#6 Merrimack Athletics 2013-14 Moment: Women's Cross Country Qualifies for National Championships
The Merrimack College Athletic Department is unveiling the top-10 moments of 2013-14 over the month of June. Join us as we count down some of the most memorable moments of the past academic year!
Setting The Scene
The Merrimack College Athletic Department enjoys the great fortune of having several head coaches who boast not only multiple years, but multiple decades on their staff.
The men's and women's cross country teams are one of those teams who benefit from that leadership, and Chris Cameron would be one to tell you that in his 22 previous seasons of coaching experience, he had seen just about everything.
Under his tutelage, Cameron's squads have produced All-Americans and even a three-peat at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships in the late 1990s, and the team has consistently been a contender at the conference and regional level year in and year out.
But with all that success, Cameron and the program had been missing one key piece from their resume: a trip to the National Championships. Never in school history had the Warriors qualified for Division II Nationals despite all that success nearly a decade ago, when a different qualification process was used to select teams to race for the national title.
Now, any team that placed in the top-three at their respective Regional Championship earned an automatic berth for the National Championships. No easy task given the quality of teams in the East Region, but Cameron still believed that there was something special about his team this past fall.
And he was exactly right.
Guided by a pair of top-20 finishes, Merrimack placed third at the NCAA East Regionals on November 10 in Boston, earning the school's first-ever qualification for the NCAA National Championships in Spokane, Wash., in the process.
Merrimack sealed itself a spot in Nationals after finishing with a combined time of 1:58.37, good for the third-best time in the 26-team field to clinch a spot in Nationals. Sophomore Kristin Schmidt's 16th-place finish was tops among all Warriors, finishing in 23:14 in the 6K course. Also earning a top-20 finish was senior Fiona Coleman, who placed 18th with a time of 23:18.
Two weeks later, the Warriors brought their talents to Spokane, Wash., where they would wrap up their historic season with a 31st-place finish at the National Championships. Schmidt and Coleman again paced the team with the top-two finishes, capping off a magical year on the country's biggest stage.
What It Meant
Head Coach Chris Cameron: "At the start of the season, I had a sneaking suspicion that the women's team could be good and surprise some people. I just didn't know how good. I told the girls in our pre-race talk that I'd rather finish 10th place while going for it all than finish 4th and run conservatively. The strategy worked, as we got out in great position and continued to run as a pack. Throughout the race I kept telling the girls that we were in the top-three and the rest was up to them. They knew what was at stake and they gave everything they had and willed their way to the NCAA Championship! We didn't have a front-runner but our tight pack was what got us to Nationals! I couldn't be more proud of a group of student-athletes! They had given everything they had and were physically spent after the race. That's all a coach can ever ask for!"
Senior Captain Briana Devereaux: "This past fall began with a mission. We were ready for a change, and this change included maximum dedication, teamwork and supporting each other through every obstacle. I couldn't be happier going out with this drastic change in performance as a team; I never thought we would actually make it to nationals prior to this year of dedication. Through every hill and every tiring workout, we were there pushing our teammates forward to create a better pack. I know the girls will continue on the dynamic Fiona and I had built within this past year, and know they will make NCAA's again."
This is the fifth of 10 Merrimack Athletics Top Moments of 2013-14 installments.
10. Men's Ice Hockey Plays in Citi Frozen Fenway 2014
9. Men's Lacrosse Reaches Fifth NE-10 Final in Six Years
8. Men's Soccer Returns to NE-10 Final
7. Men's Tennis Earns Seventh Straight NCAA Tournament Berth
6. Women's Cross Country Qualifies for National Championships
5. Friday, June 20
4. Monday, June 23
3. Wednesday, June 25
2. Friday, June 27
1. Monday, June 30