WESTFIELD, Mass. – A year ago, Bentley University's Tara Dooley (Lee/Lee HS) caught everyone by surprise when she placed 28th in the New England Women's Cross Country Championships in what was not only her collegiate debut, but also her first-ever cross country race.
Now recognized as one of the region's best, the sophomore improved on that performance by 22 places Sunday in this year's championship, finishing sixth overall at Stanley Park with a 5,000-meter time of 17:37.92. That was an improvement of about 6.3 seconds over her clocking in last year's Northeast-10 Championship, held on the same course.
Dooley finished 37.13 seconds off the winning pace of Boston University's Monica Adler. The only other runners to post a faster time than her were from Boston College, the University of Vermont and Bryant University.
The closest Division II athletes to Dooley were Southern Connecticut senior Courtney Dinnan, eighth in 17:40.02, and two-time Northeast-10 and East Region defending champion Jeptui Cherutich of American International (26th, 18:00.79).
Dooley and senior co-captain Caitlin Fahey (Bridgewater/Coyle-Cassidy HS) helped Bentley place 21st overall in the meet, best in the program's history, and third amongst Division II institutions behind Stonehill (12th) and Southern Connecticut State (18th).
Fahey finished 31st overall in 18:07.60. That was a drastic improvement of 135 places from last season, and put her fourth amongst Division II competitors.
The rest of Bentley's top five consisted of senior Ashley Nichols (Kenmore, Wash./Inglemoor HS), junior Leah Schiller (Tipp City, Ohio/Tippecanoe HS) and freshman Samantha Albanese (Lynnfield/ Lynnfield HS). Nichols was 101st in 18:58.33, Schiller was 188th (20:05.24) and Albanese was 209th (20:29.39).
Bentley's next race is the Northeast-10 Conference Championships Oct. 20 in Jamesville, N.Y.