SPOKANE, Wash. – Just 25 months after running her first-ever cross country race, Bentley University junior Tara Dooley (Lee, Mass./Lee HS) finished fourth in the 2013 NCAA Division II Championships Saturday morning at the Plante Ferry Sports Complex.
Dooley became Bentley's first-ever cross country All-America and was joined on that select list about 40 seconds later by teammate Amy Varsell (Burlington, Conn./Lewis S. Mills HS) when the grad student placed 39th in 21:48.4.
The efforts of Dooley and Varsell helped Bentley finish 23rd as a team, and first among the three East Region teams that made the lengthy trek to the northwest. The Falcons posted a team score of 548 to best both Stonehill College (25th, 616) and Merrimack College (31st, 866).
Dooley covered the 6,000-meter course in 21:07.0, finishing only 16.3 seconds back of individual champion Jennifer Agnew of the University of Mary. She was 16th at the race's midpoint and covered the final 3,000 meters in a meet-best 10:25.1, bettering her 10:41.9 over the first half.
"I was discussing the race with Tara earlier this week and I told her I thought she could be in the five-to-ten range and she gave me a look of disbelief," said coach Kevin Curtin. "She probably couldn't have raced any better. She was in about 20th at the mile and she ran the fastest last 3k in the field to move from 16th to 4th."
Varsell, the most decorated athlete in Bentley women's track and cross country history, collected her sixth career All-America award. Previously, she had earned the honor three times outdoors and twice indoors. Varsell ran the first 3,000 in 10:47.6, good for 30th place, and finished in 11:00.8.
"Amy didn't look as comfortable as I would have liked at the 3k but she fought really well to finish in the top 40," praised Curtin.
Rounding out Bentley's top five were senior Ashley Nichols (Kenmore, Wash./Inglemoor HS) in 149th (23:04.1), sophomore Sarah Brennan (Quincy, Mass./Notre Dame Academy) in 213th (24:12.6) and junior Nikki Sirignano (Wilmington, Mass./Wilmington HS) in 223rd (24:34.7).
"As a team, we were pretty happy with the performance today," said Curtin. "We haven't been ranked in the top 25 all year, so to end up 23rd was a nice way to finish the season."
Grand Valley State captured the team championship by 37 points over Adams State after placing four runners in the top 17. A total of 32 teams qualified for the nationals and a total of 244 runners participated.