DELAWARE, OH – The Vassar College track program had one of its most memorable days in history Saturday afternoon, as the Brewers had two runners earn All-American honors for the first time ever in the NCAA Championships held at Selby Stadium in Delaware, Ohio on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University.
The afternoon started with the 400-meter finals, where junior Heather Ingraham (Cromwell, CT/Cromwell) became the first Vassar College track All-American with a fourth-place finish. The race went out very fast, and Ingraham fell into seventh place after the first 200 meters of the race. She showed her composure though, and maintained the pace until the final 150 meters.
As has been her reputation all season, the junior closed with a burst, as she ran quite possibly her fastest 200 meters of the season to catch multiple racers, including passing Meredith Scannell of Wheaton (MA) right at the finish line to post a top-half placing.
Ingraham finished fourth with a time of 55.31, as the time was a school and personal best in the 400 meters. The time supplanted the previous best of 55.42, set at the Matthew Vassar Twilight Meet earlier in May. Wisconsin-Whitewater junior Lexie Sondgeroth won the event with a time of 53.60, while Ashante Little of Wheaton (MA) and Hulerie McGuffie (UMass Boston) rounded out the top three.
"Definitely a difficult race since it went out so fast, but I stayed with the pace," said Ingraham. "I just stayed close and closed strong over the last 200, and kept gaining on them…it was really exciting though. My goal for the year was to make nationals, and then make All-American once I got here, so it was great to see the hard work pay off."
"It was a tough race, but she did what she did all season and that was close well," said Vassar track head coach James McCowan. "We’re proud of Heather, but also for the entire track program, as she was our first track All-American. It’s great to see our program doing big things."
Later in the day, the brilliant career of one of Vassar’s best athletes ever came to a story book ending, as Aubree Piepmeier (Franklin, MA/Franklin) crossed the line fifth overall in the 5000-meter run to earn her All-American honor.
Piepmeier hung around sixth to eighth place through the first seven laps of the 12.5 lap race, but fell into tenth after the eighth lap. Her time splits remained consistent, as all of her splits through the first 11 laps were within 1:19.00 to 1:23.00. During the last lap, the senior distance star showed her speed, as she ran a 73 second final lap to just edge Amy Regan of Stevens by .02 seconds at the line. Her final lap was the tied for the third-fastest 400 meters of the race.
Her time of 16:41.93 was a personal record and school best, and also bestest the previous stadium record at Selby Stadium of 16:44.68 set back in 2007. This was the third time Piepmeier had qualified for an NCAA Championship race, but was the first time she finished in the top eight to earn All-American status. She ran the 5000 meters back in 2012, but finished 16th that season.
Christy Cazzola of Wisconsin-Oshkosh won the event with a time of 16:29.96, while Melissa Skiba (Cal Lutheran), Cara DeAngelis (Ohio Wesleyan) and Kimber Meyer (Macalester) rounded out the first five with Piepmeier.
"It was definitely a competitive race, a very fast clip, and a hotter day than we’ve had to race in most of the year," said Piepmeier. "I just remained consistent and had confidence in my kick to be able to catch the spots in front of me. It’s part of reading the race, and understanding who and when you need to pass and I think things came together."
"It still hasn’t hit me yet, but I’ve always felt like I was supposed to be an All-American," said Piepmeier. "I kept picturing success all week, but I wanted to actually see it, and I did today. I’m just really excited."
"It’s been a long time coming for Aubree," said McCowan. "She always showed progress, potential and a lot of it was learning how to be successful and she knows that now. There are two things every successful runner needs: an engine and desire. There are tons of runners that have an engine or a huge desire, but not many that have both. Aubree has both, and she pulled it together today."