In a field of 32 teams competing for limited spots at Nationals, the Dons remained poised. No. 17 San Francisco continued its excellent season on Friday, Nov. 15 with a fourth place team finish at the NCAA West Regionals in Sacramento and earned a trip to Indiana to compete at the NCAA Championships.
USF kept its season alive by earning an at-large bid after finishing behind Arizona, Stanford, and Oregon at Regionals. Seven San Francisco runners participated in the 6,000-meter race (3.7 miles) at Haggin Oaks Golf Course, and each of them gave their all with only 43 seconds separating the entire Dons team.
Graduate student Bridget Dahlberg was at the head of the pack for USF, crossing the finish line in 21st place with a time of 20:11, a season-best among all Dons athletes. Dahlberg may have recorded the top time, but until the very end of the race, she was trailing junior Kate Jamboretz who crossed the line at 20:12. Using her teammate’s speed as motivation, Dahlberg kicked it into gear and was able to pass Jamboretz to finish just a second ahead of her fellow Don.
“I really feel like we all can run together,” Dahlberg told USFDons.com. “We do it every day at practice. So when Kate passed me, it was kind of a wake-up call to myself that I could do it — and then I just wanted to finish hard.” The depth and consistency of the Dons’ squad was on full display at Regionals, as sophomore Elena Burkard came in right behind Dahlberg and Jamboretz with a time of 20:13, good for 24th place out of 177 total runners. Soon after, seniors Eva Krchova and Maor Tiyouri completed the race in 20:28 and 20:32, respectively. Having numerous runners with strong times has been a staple of San Francisco’s success this season. In any given race — whether it is Dahlberg, Jamboretz, Tiyouri, or someone else — each Don is a threat to make their way to the front of the group. By getting solid times from all contributors, the Dons were, for the fifth year in a row, able to dominate the WCC and claim the conference title.
“We always have a different combination at the finish, and I think that just shows how deep we are and how good we are,” Dahlberg told USFDons.com. “I think that’s the best way you can go into Nationals.”
The NCAA Championships will take place in Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday, Nov. 23. Head Coach Helen Lehman-Winters was proud of her group for the way they ran in Sacramento, but she is now focused on preparing for the race that will define the Dons’ season.
“We’ve been a team over the last five years that has demonstrated that we can compete at the NCAA Championships, but we’ve also come up short at this meet,” Lehman-Winters told USFDons.com. “I think we set ourselves up nicely this year. We went to the right meets, we got the job done at Notre Dame and Wisconsin, and it took a lot of pressure off us coming into this meet. It just allowed us to run well, but [to] save our biggest race for next weekend.”
Although they have certainly had a spectacular year thus far, winning a WCC title and having five runners in the Top 40 at Regionals warrants high expectations for the national competition. If the Dons hope to reverse their history of underperforming at the championship meet, then the time is now.