Georgetown’s reign as women’s Big East cross country champions ended in a painfully close finish last Friday, as Notre Dame squeaked by the Hoyas, 70-69, to win its first ever conference title.

Despite returning its entire championship team from last season, Notre Dame’s youth proved to be too much for the Georgetown veterans, as the one-two finish of Irish sophomore Lauren King and freshman Molly Huddle earned Notre Dame just enough points to defeat the Hoyas, who ended the contest only one place away from a tie. Villanova (88) finished a distant third.

“It was close, and the bottom line is we didn’t run what we were capable of running,” Assistant Coach Juli Henner said. “We didn’t have a real good performance by a couple of key members of our team, but we’ll put a positive spin on this and use it as fuel for the fire to motivate us to come back and run the best we can on Nov. 25.”

Following their performances at Pre-Nationals and the Great American Cross Country Festival, sophomores Nicole Lee and Jodee Adams-Moore once again led the team, and claimed the Hoyas’ top two finishes. Lee placed ninth overall, with a time of 20:51, and Adams-Moore followed 12 seconds behind her for 13th place. Seniors Erin Sicher and Marni Kruppa finished 14th and 16th, and junior Treniere Clement closed out the team’s scoring with an 18th place finish.

Particularly encouraging for the Hoyas was the relative proximity of each of the team’s scorers. Less than 40 seconds and 10 places separated the leader, Lee, from the back of Georgetown’s pack, and subsequent finishers such as senior Jill Laurendeau, who placed 20th, and junior Sarah Scholl, who placed 27th, were just a few more seconds behind.

“After looking at all the conference meets this weekend, I think our pack is one of the best in the country,” Henner said.

Along with the tight-pack running, other positive results exhibited last Friday were the performances of juniors Amanda Pape and Colleen Kelly who, despite their nagging injuries, managed to pull out respectable 33rd and 36th place finishes, respectively.

“[Pape] is somebody that will run through a lot of pain,” Henner said. “We’re at the point where we need to figure out whether to let her injury heal 100 percent or to train 100 percent, and we need to sit down as a coaching staff with her and really try to figure out, `how bad is this thing?’ We need to know if [racing] is doing more damage than good for her.”

With just the low-key Virginia Invitational scheduled this weekend, and the regional and championship meets taking place later in the month, the coming weeks will be a time of training, rest and recuperation.

“We still need to get in a couple of good workouts before now and then, but the biggest thing is that we need to go into both regionals and nationals with fresh legs and feeling really good,” Henner said.

Regionals are scheduled for Nov. 16, with nationals following on Nov. 25, and despite the narrow defeat last Friday, Henner said the team is looking toward the remainder of the season with a great deal of optimism.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of days soul searching, and one of the things that I feel is going on is that the girls are focusing on things that are outside of their control,” Henner said. “If we can convince them not to do that, and to just focus on what great athletes they are and the great training they have behind them, then that’s when I think we’re going to be able to let loose and perform up to our capabilities.”

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