Preview: Carnevale and DMR to Run at NCAAs

Thursday, March 7, 2013


NCAA logo As members of the Muhlenberg women’s track and field team gathered in the Life Sports Center for practice on Tuesday, they were noticeably nervous about their upcoming trip to North Central for the NCAA Division III Championships.

It wasn’t so much the meet that had them on edge – it was the more than 1,000 flights cancelled at airports in Chicago that day.

But the storm moved on, and the Mules landed safely in Midway Airport (about 30 miles from North Central in Naperville, Ill.) ready to take on the nation’s best.

Samantha Mayden
Mayden has run as the lone Muhlenberg representative in three NCAA events (in cross country and outdoor track), but this will be the first time she will have teammates along for the trip.
Muhlenberg has entrants in two events at the national meet: junior Stephanie Carnevale in the 60-meter hurdles and the distance-medley relay team of junior Nicki Cronin, sophomore Kirsten Kuchera and seniors Erica Bash and Samantha Mayden. Both are scheduled to compete tomorrow.

And even though Mayden is the only one of the five with previous experience at an NCAA event, there were still be a certain level of familiarity when the Muhlenberg runners line up.

Carnevale has run against three of the other 14 competitors, defeating two of them. She finished ahead of a Gettysburg hurdler in winning a gold medal at the Centennial Conference Championships, and she outran a Rowan competitor at last weekend’s ECAC Championships.

“I know you can’t look at it like any other meet, but it does make it a little more comforting,” said Carnevale.

The trip to nationals comes at the end of a sensational indoor season for Carnevale, who has taken more than a third of a second of her personal best in the 60 hurdles entering the season (9.31). In just the last month, she lowered her time to 9.10, then 9.05, then her qualifying time of 8.97.

“It’s all because of the way my coaches have been training me,” she explained. “From day one they corrected so many things with my form. I’ve also been focusing a lot more on sprinting and running faster.”

Stephanie Carnevale
Carnevale is in the second heat of the 60 hurdles, along with the defending national champion. The winner of each heat and next six fastest times advance to Saturday’s final.
That is evident in Carnevale’s 60-meter dash time, which went from 8.36 at the start of the season to a school-record 8.00 at the CC Championships. And just as her times have gotten lower and lower, her confidence has gotten higher and higher. “I’m really going for it,” she said of the NCAA meet. “I really think I have a chance.”

The DMR team took a strange path to the NCAA Championships. The quartet was supposed to run at Tufts in early February but cancelled their trip due to a snowstorm. Then the Mules were slated to run in a last chance meet at Ursinus last weekend, but that meet was cancelled. So they went to Tufts after all, earning their spot in the national meet with a school-record performance.

“It worked out really well,” said Cronin, who is the second Division III national qualifier in her family. Her older sister Jenn ran in the NCAAs for cross country and track while at Lebanon Valley. “Going to Tufts put us in the right mindset. It was good to run against that type of competition.”

That competition included two of the other nine DMR teams in the field – one from Johns Hopkins and one from Geneseo State. And the Mules have been running against national caliber competition all season; four of the 15 national qualfiers in the mile are from the Centennial Conference.

Like Carnevale, the DMR team has the lowest qualifying time. But since only 10 relay teams are invited, the Muhlenberg foursome needs to beat just two of the other teams to earn All-America honors.

“I think being the last-seeded team helps,” said Cronin. “We’ll be able to go out there, relax and have fun with it, which will let us do our best.”

That all starts with Cronin, who has run the leadoff leg on two school-record relay teams.

“I like starting – I did it all through high school,” she said. “My goal is just to keep them in it. I have the utmost confidence in my relay team members.”
Click here for the meet site.