November 14th, junior Jenn Cronin captured the NCAA Mideast Regional
meet to become the first female NCAA qualifier in LVC history as well
as USTFCCCA Mideast Regional Athlete of the Year honors. In this
entry, Jenn recounts her fabulous race at that meet. Over the course
of the next few days, Jenn will give an inside view into the NCAA
Nationals experience; covering everything from the course inspection,
coach & athlete banquet, as well as her attempt to become an NCAA
All-American donning an LVC uniform. Stay tuned!
So it has been five days since we raced at Lehigh and I think everything has finally sunk it. It has taken awhile to grasp everything that has happened in the past few days, but I am ready to go to Ohio now! It is crazy to think that just a week ago the team was in Allentown singing karaoke and having fun at the hotel. The freshman boys aka Matt, Alex and Pat decided to serenade the team during karaoke night at the hotel. It was an absolute blast. I think that this night really helped me because I enjoyed the atmosphere and didn’t get nervous about the race.
Saturday morning Megan and I got up around 7:30 and had some breakfast. We packed all of our stuff up (we had a lot) and headed out around 9 to the course. It was a little bit chilly when we first arrived but I think we all forgot about the weather once the race started. We were in box 50, which was totally ridiculous because we were in the middle of nowhere, but the race got out cleanly. Once the gun went off I just wanted to find the pack that I knew I had to stick with. All of the lead runners grouped together. Initially the Johns Hopkins girls were out in front, which I thought would happen since they were the number two team in the country so I figured that one of their runners was going to be a contender for the regional title. Throughout the race I made a conscience effort to count the place I was in. Even before we got to the first mile I counted where I was at. Coach O'Brien and I had discussed that in order to be a guaranteed into Nationals I would have to be in the top seven. I got a little nervous about a half mile into the race because I heard the Etown coach say to Megan V., his runner, that she had gone out to hard and at that time I was behind her. But I figured that I had to stay in contact with the lead pack the whole entire time. There was probably about ten of us packed together in the first mile, I just wanted to make sure that I stayed with this group. I heard people cheering for girls behind me so I knew who was close. Around mile two we really started to drop some girls, but I was still feeling really strong. I pretty much just sat on the girls in front of me.
At about mile 2.5 we got into the corn fields. Once we reached this point Erin Rhodes from Messiah decided to break from the pack. There is a slight incline in the corn fields and I knew that I had to use it to my advantage. I tried to power up the hill as best I could. I caught Rhodes about halfway through and passed her going into a turn. She came right back and we ran together for about twenty five more meters. We made a left hand turn and at this point Emily Lipman from Haverford was right next to me and Kerrin Epstein from Gettysburg made a strong move to the front. The three of us hit mile three at pretty much exactly the same point. I knew that it was going to come down to a battle between the three of us. Once we hit the white sculpture I knew that it was time to make my move. I had lost to Caitlin Dorgan at Paul Short in October because I waited too long to kick and I didn’t want to make the same mistake. I was also a little afraid of girls behind me. The Mideast Region is a really strong one so I wasn’t sure if someone from behind would have a really strong kick in the end. So once I saw the white sculpture I went for it. I told myself that I would rather lose going down fighting than waiting too long. Additionally, our assistant Coach Chris Bauer told me previously that he wanted me to make girls hurt. So that’s what I went for. I figured I would throw down a surge and see if they could stick with me. So I made my move and didn’t look back. I got to the gravel, which I had stumbled over at Paul Short, and really just pushed it into the finish line. I heard the boy’s team just screaming at me and just tried to move as quickly as I could.
When I looked up I was shocked and amazed that I had come in first. I waited around for some of the other girls to finish and when Caitlin Dorgan crossed through the line we realized that we had both made it to nationals. It was such a great feeling. Than I had my whole family come running over to me, I am pretty positive that they were all crying because they were so happy. I waited around for all the girls to finish and everyone was so nice. I really would have never been able to have such a great race if it wasn’t for my family, my teammates and my coaches. They were all so supportive and made it so much more fun. I am looking forward to running this upcoming Saturday, regardless of what happens it will be a great experience.