NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, October 12,
By Bethany Bradsher
Overachieving women harriers
push for more
Coach Dan Lee
(ECU SID image)
All rights reserved.
Dan Lee knows that there
are plenty of coaches and observers on the college cross country scene who
are surprised at the success of East Carolina’s women’s squad this fall. He
just doesn’t happen to be one of them.
Lee, who coaches both the
Pirate men’s and women’s teams, is certainly proud of the Lady Pirates and
their No. 9 ranking in the NCAA Southeast Region. But he is known for
setting the bar high for his athletes.
Senior Amanda Lapp said
that when one of his runners reaches a goal, Lee tells them that they can go
for a higher goal.
For Lee, every
accomplishment is just evidence of what he knew could happen with the right
mix of intense training and mental discipline.
“They haven’t surpassed
my expectations because I’m notorious for setting high expectations,” said
Lee, who is in his fifth year working with ECU distance runners. “They’ve
definitely exceeded and surpassed the expectations that most people would
With solid performances
in each of their four meets this season, the women’s team has achieved its
highest-ever ranking behind the pacing of its three seniors — Lapp, Brittany
Copeland and Tara Wilson.
Copeland, who has been a
standout since she was a freshman at ECU and was named ECU Athlete of the
Week after winning the ECU Pirate Invitational at Lake Kristi, has always
excelled, but the emergence of her fellow seniors has pushed her and all of
the Pirates to run faster, Lee said.
“Make no mistake about
it, Tara and Amanda have definitely pushed her,” Lee said of Copeland, who
owns two of ECU’s three fastest 5K times and four of the top 10 finishes in
history. “She wouldn’t be there without them behind her. Most people in this
sport are highly motivated and tough and hard-working, but there was
definitely something you can’t quite put your finger on with these three.”
“It’s great to compete
within the team, just being out there and having the whole group do the
stuff you’re doing,” said Wilson. “Seeing someone go faster makes you want
to go faster.”
At the Pirates’ most
recent competition, the Greater Louisville Classic, the women faced down a
field of 262 runners and the three ECU seniors finished in a swift pack in
the top 25 overall. Wilson was the top Pirate finisher, crossing the line
23rd with a time of 17:37.49. Next came Lapp with a career-best of 17:37.56
— her third personal record in as many weeks. Copeland finished 25th overall
with a time of 17:39.57.
For Lapp, who keeps
topping her previous record, the development of the three seniors and a host
of younger players means that top times are likely to become the norm for
the Pirates. She and Wilson, who struggled as freshmen and have
progressively improved in the years since, love the fact that they finally
run with Copeland and not behind her.
Now that the three
upperclassmen are finally all performing at a high level, Lapp said she is
“getting kind of greedy” for more success.
The three Pirate seniors
aren’t the only runners who are shaving seconds of their times from one week
to the next, Lee said. The team has, on the whole, become much faster since
Lee arrived in 2006, he said. A runner whose time doesn’t even make the top
10 this year would have been the second or third fastest runner a few years
ago. Lee hopes that this year will mark a milestone for the program, as
faster times and national recognition become the norm for the program.
The next test for cross
country’s legacy-in-progress is this weekend’s Panorama Farms Invitational
in Charlottesville, VA, which will feature a field of nationally-ranked
teams. At the end of October, the team will travel to Houston for the
Conference USA Championships, followed by the NCAA Southeast Regional.
The C-USA event will give
the Pirates a start on earning national respect, as East Carolina has never
been a major contender in the conference. Lapp thinks this could be the year
to change that.
“We haven’t really earned
the respect in the conference yet that I feel we deserve,” Lapp said.
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10/12/2011 03:52 AM