Women's Track & Field Season Outlook

Sarah Wild '11 - photo by Robert Brickley
Sarah Wild '11 - photo by Robert Brickley

Fletcher Brooks returns to Williams as the head coach of the men’s and women’s track & field teams after serving seven successful years as strength and conditioning coach, assistant, then associate head coach of both programs for the Ephs (1998-2005).

Brooks left Williams at the conclusion of the 2004-05 academic year to become the head coach of women's cross country and track & field at MIT.

"I am grateful for the experience I had at MIT, but now I am enthusiastic about being back in the NESCAC and at Williams, the best Division III conference and athletic department in the country, as far as I'm concerned, and to the challenges in heading up the track and field program."

Brooks knows a lot about the track & field scene in New England collegiate circles, but he is just getting to know his new teams at Williams.

"I really have no idea how good we are or how good we can be because I'm just not that familiar with the Williams kids yet," said Brooks. "We've been doing team conditioning drills under the lights on Lamb Field and I can tell you that I like the energy and enthusiasm I've seen from the team. They're working hard, working as a team and pushing each other."

Also complicating Brooks' fashioning of a competitive team at the moment is the large number of Eph athletes who are studying away for the fall semester, coming off of other fall teams, or in the case of middle distance standouts Sarah Wild (Portland, OR) and Lizzie Danhakl (Pacific Palisades, CA) still competing in the fall season (women’s soccer in NCAA Final Four). Some 20+ Ephs will need a little time to rest and then acclimate to the track workouts after their fall seasons before they are ready to compete.

"Each athlete is different so we have to go on how they're feeling and what they feel they can do," noted Brooks. "Then it will be a question of where they are physically when they do re-join the team workouts, but we need to do this the right way and not get ahead of ourselves."

Brooks knows he has a standout returnee in the hurdles in junior Elise Johnson, (Cleveland, OH) an All-American outdoors in the 100-meter hurdle discipline. Johnson could also be slotted in the 200-meter dash along with experienced veteran and junior Shawna McArdle (Chelmsford, MA) who had a breakout sophomore year. First year Hillary Higgs (Springfield, MA) should contribute in the 55-meter dash as well as the 200, and first year multi-event performer Karyn Moss, Medfield, MA, younger sister to Eph All-American Kristin Moss ’06, will compete in the hurdles and sprints.

Despite losing All Americans Lissy Robie, Laura Walls, and sprint stalwart Carrie Plitt to gradation, on paper the strength of the Eph team should come from the 400-meter dash through the 1000-meter run with the likes of junior and experienced NCAA competitor Olga Kondatjeva (Vilnius, Lithuania), an All-American returning in February, senior All-American Heather Bemis (West Hartford, CT) junior NCAA qualifier Ariel Williams (Ellington, CT) junior All-American Emily Heaslip (Ridgefield, CT) and sophomores Sarah Wild (All American 4th place at NCAAs last winter and outdoor qualifier in the 800) and Lizzie Danhakl (9th at NCAAs last spring and school record-holder in the 800). 

For the mile, 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs, Brooks will have a large crew of runners he can call on for points. The top eight Eph cross country runners coming off a third place finish in the NCAA Championships on November 22nd are led by senior Lauren Philbrook (Hopkinton, MA) who attained All-American honors for the first time in those championships and was an outdoor NCAA provisional qualifier in the 10,000-meters last spring. Additional top prospects from the top eight include sophomore Meghan Shea (Nesconset, NY), juniors Jessica Clarke (Baltimore, MD), Elly Teitsworth (Ridgefield, CT), and Bret Scofield (Orinda, CA) -- the latter two competing until spending the spring semester abroad, and seniors Rachel Asher (Lake Bluff, IL), Gillian Tedeschi (Atlanta, GA) and Robin Kuntz (San Diego, CA).

This top group will be buttressed by the women who won the ECAC Cross Country Championship this fall: sophomores Sarah Weber (Arlington, VA) and Tina Meade, (Hingham, MA), junior Moira Yoe (Yarmouth, ME), and seniors Julie McNamara (Chappaqua, NY) and Mary Feeley (Marblehead, MA).

"With the depth we have in the middle distance and distance events we should be able to have fresh legs competing in each relay, which is a great advantage," stated Brooks.

Karyn Moss and promising sophomore Sara Turner (Delmar, NY) will get a chance to show their form in the high, long, and triple jumps. Sophomore Fhatarah Zinnamon (Chicago, IL) will join them after showing great potential last year as a first-time triple and long jumper.

For the time being, the pole vault will be the domain of sophomore Rachel Teitelbaum (Oak Park, IL) who improved a great deal over the indoor and outdoor campaigns culminating in a runner-up finish at the outdoor New England championships. Experienced junior veteran Tara Oberg (Lambertville, NJ) will join Teitelbaum when she returns from studying abroad during the fall semester.

First years Madeline Watson (Albuquerque, NM) and Eileen Becker (Franklin Lakes, NJ) will look to lead the always strong implement group in the shot put and weight throw, while sophomore Julia Cohan (Allendale, NJ), returns to add the weight throw to her outdoor javelin and hammer throw resume.

Williams is traditionally one of the stronger teams in New England having garnered regional championships indoors from 1992-1995, in 1997, and from 2003-2007 to go along with a similarly impressive string of outdoor titles. Despite the loss of heavy point scorers to graduation, study abroad programs, and conservative return schedules for those competing on fall sports teams, this year’s team should still contend with stiff competition from familiar foes Tufts, Wheaton, and a fast-improving MIT squad. "I know MIT will be ready for us on February 7th when we go there to compete against them and Coast Guard in an old-school tri-meet," said Brooks. "That should be fun."

Considering his previous tenure on the Williams staff, Brooks is particularly impressed with the team-oriented approach his Ephs have shown to date, an overall attitude that bodes well for covering the loss of seniors and other unforeseen challenges. "You can overcome holes in your lineup if you compete as a team and there is a real team atmosphere with everyone supporting each other," he said. "Every day this group has brought out a positive energy and has worked hard. I'm excited to see how the season turns out."

The 2008-09 season begins at Smith on Saturday, December 6th.