BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Becky Yep cut more than 30 seconds off her previous-best time on Lehigh University’s cross country course Friday, leading the University of Maryland to a 15th-place team finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.
The Terrapins’ placing clinched a team goal with the top-15 finish putting Maryland back into the Mid-Atlantic Region rankings by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
"A lot of our women stepped up and ran better today," said distance coach Matt Jelley. "We ran the fastest average time (22:08) Maryland has run on that course since 2007. Only the 2010 team tied that average time."
Yep, a senior from Ellicott City, Md., finished 40th overall in leading the Terps to the line. Her 6-kilometer time of 21:15 was well faster than the 21:46 she posted on the same course as a freshman and the 22:14 she ran at this season’s Paul Short Run in October.
"Becky did a real nice job," said Jelley. "We asked her to put herself in the race early and she did it. She executed the race plan the way we needed it."
Yep's time was the fourth-fastest for a Maryland runner on the Lehigh course since 2005.
Julie Sinkovitz was 87th in 21:58 and Bridget Nolan was 93rd in 22:01 as Maryland was led to the line Friday by its three seniors in the lineup. Each of those marks were also nearly one minute faster than the times they posted in October.
"Julie said after the race that this was the first time this season at the mile mark she heard 'Good job' from me rather than 'Go faster.' "
Maryland’s freshman tandem of Sydney Almeida and Charde’ Barnes pushed up to the last two scoring spots in the final race of the year. Almeida was 124th in 22:27, while Barnes placed 143rd in 22:59.
"Catherine Sheffo, who has been our No. 5 runner lately, was sick all week," said Jelley. "We told Charde' to keep herself ready and we might need her. A couple days ago, she found out she would be running. She and Sydney stepped up big-time."
Maryland had fallen from the Mid-Atlantic rankings in the middle of the season, as some runners trained through some races to focus on meets at the end of the schedule.
Jelley said Thursday that returning to the rankings was a team goal for the championship race. The Terrapins scored 459 points on Friday, getting the 15th spot by 48 points over Rutgers.
"This was kind of a put-up or shut-up race for us," said Jelley. "We did very well and I'm proud of the way we performed today. This team has taken some huge strides this season."
Villanova and Georgetown claimed the top two positions in the team standings, earning automatic qualifiers for the NCAA Division I Nationals on Nov. 23. The Wildcats scored 31 points with the Hoyas close behind at 35.
Those two teams dominated the top of the individual standings, as only one runner from any other school cracked the top 11.
Villanova earned the top two individual positions, as senior teammates Emily Lipari and Nicky Akande finished 1-2, respectively, and were each timed in 19:53. They were the only finishers under 20 minutes in the women’s race.
Penn State was third with 92 points and will await a possible at-large invitation from the NCAA.