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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

THREE TUFTS HARRIERS IN SATURDAY'S NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE

Amy Wilfert
 

Stephanie McNamara
 

Jesse Faller
 

MEDFORD -- For two of the Tufts University cross country runners who will compete in the NCAA Championship Race on Saturday, national competition is old hat. For the other, it will be a brand new experience.

Junior Jesse Faller (Burlington, MA) of the men's team and sophomore Stephanie McNamara (North Attleborough, MA) of the women's team have been there before. Both return to the national championship race as All-Americans this year. Faller was 18th in last season's NCAA Championship and McNamara was 30th. Both also have plenty of national experience in track, adding to the comfort that they feel with the situation now.

"For the most part, I plan to go out there and run my own race," said McNamara, who qualified for Nationals by finishing fourth at the NCAA Regional last Saturday at Williams. "Our team has been training really hard this entire season and I feel confident that it will pay off this weekend. As I remember from last year, the competition field at Nationals is very strong. Having a great competition field is one of the best parts of any nationals experience and I really believe that it is something that brings out the best in every athlete competing in the race."

Faller will be running at the NCAA meet for the second time, but for the first time individually. He led the team at last year's appearance, when Tufts finished 26th. He was the NCAA Regional runner-up individually at Williams last week.

"Since I had some success running at Nationals last year, my race strategy will be similar for this race," Faller said. "I plan to get out hard and run in the lead pack from the beginning. I've raced near the front of every race this season so there's no reason why this weekend is any different. Once you've established yourself in the lead pack you've reduced the field from 300 runners to just 30. It makes the race more manageable and more relaxing. Success at Nationals is all about being calm in the midst of a very, very hectic race."

Both will run the course at the L.S. Ayres Athletic Complex on the campus of Hanover College for the first time on Friday. The men's eight-kilometer race will begin at 11 a.m. The women's six-kilometer event will start at noon. Both Jumbos will look to improve on their NCAA performances from a year ago.

"Other than that, I simply expect myself to give 100 percent and enjoy every moment," McNamara said. Faller added, "I am very excited to run at Nationals and proud to represent my team and Tufts University."

The newcomer to the scene will be sophomore Amy Wilfert (Westborough, MA) from the women's team. She was 14th at the Regionals to earn a spot in the national championship race. Travelling with two NCAA veterans will be to her advantage, but she plans on keeping it simple.

"My plan of attack for Nationals is to just get out there and run my best," Wilfert said. "I'm told the course has rolling hills in it, so I hope to use them to my advantage to move up throughout the race. My goal is to get in the top 35. I think it's possible, but it will be a tough race. I've been feeling really strong this week, so I think the race will go well this weekend."

Success at the NCAA Cross Country Championships has become commonplace for the Tufts teams, and Faller, McNamara and Wilfert look to extend that tradition this weekend.

2008 NCAA Div. III Cross Country Championships Website

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