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Del Fava Departs for XC Nationals

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Del Fava Departs for XC Nationals

Championship Central

ALBANY, N.Y. – For the first time in school history, the University at Albany will be represented at the NCAA Division I Cross Country National Championship.  Silvia Del Fava, from the UAlbany women’s team, will make the trip to Terre Haute, Indiana, to compete in the national championship race on Saturday.  The men’s and women’s fields will each feature 31 teams of seven and an additional 38 individual competitors, for a final tally of 255 total runners in each race.  Indiana State University plays host to the festivities this weekend, holding the race on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.

Del Fava will return to the same 6K course on which she ran the Pre-National Invitational in October.  In that race, Del Fava placed seventh overall with a time of 20:54.00.  Despite the familiarity Del Fava has with the course, there is a bit of a wrinkle to consider this time around.

“The course will not be available on Thursday,” said head coach Matt Jones.  “The grounds crew will be going over the course on Thursday to make sure it’s in the best condition for the race, because of the damage the storms in the area may have done.”

Returning to courses she previously ran has worked well for Del Fava this year.  She opened the season at the America East Pre-Conference meet at Binghamton University.  Running the same course at the America East Championship, she improved her time by 46 seconds.  When she returned to Van Cortlandt park for the Northeast Regional Championship, after having run there at Iona College’s Meet of Champions, her time improved by more than two minutes.  The course for regionals was altered from the previous meet, to limit the wear and tear on the athletes who would compete at nationals just a week later, but Del Fava got a chance to scout the regional course early in the season with the team after the Iona race ended. 

“Silvia is confident in her knowledge of the course, and because of that she may be able to execute the race plan even better,” said Jones.

Despite having a familiarity with the championship course, Del Fava will be competing on consecutive weekends for the first time all season, after having enjoyed a week off between each race until now.  The short turnaround is something new she will have to manage.

“We did our workouts on Monday and Wednesday,” said Jones.  “The high-end work was on Monday, and she did a short recovery run on Tuesday.  Wednesday was mostly sharpening work.  When we arrive in Indiana on Thursday Silvia will do a shake-out run, and we’ll inspect the course on Friday.”

Del Fava has been training on her own this week, as her teammates have begun the transition phase to indoor track, adding another new dynamic approaching the national meet.

“Looking at the big picture, cross country is a team sport while track is more individually focused.  But even so, it’s more difficult to qualify for nationals as an individual for cross country than as a team, so Silvia has accomplished a lot,” said Jones.

Del Fava emerged as arguably as the best runner on the women’s team this year.  She ran the second fastest 6K in UAlbany history at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invitational.  At the Northeast Regional Championship, Del Fava improved on that time and ended up narrowly setting a new school record.  Additionally, she holds the third fastest 5K time in UAlbany history, which she ran at the America East Championship.  Del Fava and teammate Brittney Lane consistently finished as the top two UAlbany athletes in every meet this year, with Lane taking first in four races and Del Fava claiming the top spot in the other two.  To this point, Del Fava has earned one America East Performer of the Week awards, as well as America East All-Conference recognition. 

With one more race on the season, Del Fava now has a chance to test her mettle against the best competition in the country.  Looking at the teams involved, Providence is likely the favorite to take the team title, after winning the Northeast Regional championship and entering the weekend as the top ranked team in the country.  Del Fava would be the fourth runner on Providence’s team.  Regarding the other Northeast team representatives, Del Fava would be the second runner on Dartmouth, behind Abbey D’Agostino who is the likely favorite to claim the individual title.  Del Fava beat the entirety of Syracuse’s team at regionals, and came in right behind Cornell’s top two runners.

“If everything falls into place, I think Silvia can expect to finish in the top third of the race,” said Jones.  “There really is a talented group of individuals racing this weekend, and I think Silvia could race at the front of many of these teams.  But at a meet like this, just a few seconds could mean a difference of 10 to 15 places.”

Though Providence may be considered the favorite to win the women’s team competition, they will face stiff competition from Arizona, who defeated Providence at the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational earlier this year.  Providence has not suffered a defeat since that race, but Arizona remains undefeated on the season.  Third-ranked Arkansas also beat Providence at the Adidas Invitational, and is another team in contention for the championship.  Other teams to look for are Florida State, whose top runner, Colleen Quigley, has a shot to win the individual title, Colorado, who narrowly lost to Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship, and Georgetown, who won the Pre-National Invitational on this course.

On the individual side, Dartmouth’s D’Agostino is favored to win, having compiled a dominant 2013 season.  This year, D’Agostino won the Adidas Invitational and was victorious in her third consecutive Northeast Regional Championship.  In 2012, D’Agostino finished second overall to Iowa State’s Betsy Saina by a margin of less than one second.  Her biggest competition will come from Florida State’s Quigley, Big East champion and runner-up at the Adidas Invitational and Northeast Regional Championship Emily Sisson of Providence, South Central Regional champion Marielle Hall of Texas, Pre-National, Mountain West, and West Regional champion Emma Bates of Boise State, and Cally Macumber of Kentucky, who, behind D’Agostino, is the second highest returner from last year’s meet, where she finished sixth overall.

The top 25 finishers in the race will get onto the podium and receive All-American honors.  All runners will be shooting to finish in that elite group, Del Fava included.  But it will be important for Del Fava to stick to her race plan.

“We have set out the same guidelines as the regional race,” said Jones.  “The course this weekend may be a bit slower than the regional course, but if Silvia can execute the plan we expect her to finish in about the same time she did last week.  She needs to be conscious of the switchbacks on this course, be conscious of the tangents on the turns, and she needs to concentrate on passing people.”

Del Fava will start in Box 4 of 41 as a member of Individual Group 4.  She is grouped with Cory McGee and Agata Strausa of Florida, and Annie LeHardy of North Carolina.  Virginia has been assigned Box 3, and Individual Group 3 has been assigned Box 5.

“The work is finished now,” said Jones.  “Come 1:15 on Saturday, it’s time to get it done.”

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