Division II Cross Country Regionals - NortheastNov. 6, 2005

BOSTON, Mass. -- Junior Nicole Plante (North Adams, MA) placed first and captured runner of the year honors as she led UMass Lowell to first place at the NCAA Northeast Region Womens Cross Country Championship Sunday at Franklin Park.

The championship was the first ever for the River Hawks, who scored 35 points (1, 6, 7, 10, 11 15, 36) and placed six runners among the top 15 places.

The individual title was the second major honor in two weeks for Plante as she covered the 6K course in 22 minutes, 6.4 seconds, more than 52 seconds faster than second-place Erin Smith of Stonehill (22:57.5). Two weeks ago, Plante captured the Northeast-10 Conference individual title and led the River Hawks to the team championship. The NCAA Northeast Region field was made up of 119 runners representing 21 colleges.

Stonehill College placed second with 36 points (2, 4, 5, 8, 17 34, 43) while Bentley placed third with 93 points. Both UMass Lowell and Stonehill move on to the NCAA Championship Saturday, Nov. 19, in Pomona, CA.

"All seven kids ran well today, said UML head coach Gary Gardner, who was named the NCAA Northeast Region coach of the year. I think a little of this is the energy from winning the (Northeast-10) conference meet two weeks ago. Our kids know they are very good now, something they didnt realize until three weeks ago.

The top two individual runners, Caitlyn Clark of Assumption and Natalie Johnson of C.W. Post, also advance to the NCAA Championship. Clark placed third in 23:04.8 while Johnson took ninth in 23:32.5. The top 15 runners comprised the NCAA Northeast regional all-star team. C.W. Post placed fourth with 113 points and was followed by Le Moyne (158), Assumption (178), Merrimack (192) and Saint Rose (228). Plante, who placed second in last years meet and missed All-American honors by one place at the NCAA Championship, broke free of the pack within the first mile and was never challenged.

We wanted to use this as a dress rehearsal for how she is going to have to run at the NCAA Championship, said Gardner. At the NE-10 meet, we held her back so that our other runners would be with the lead group for the first mile. At the NCAAs, she is going to have to run hard the entire meet, which is what she did today. UML had six runners finish among the top 15 spots and five among the top 11 to clinch the team title. Freshmen Christina DaLomba (Marstons Mills, MA) and Emily Thomas (Foxboro, MA) placed sixth and seventh, DaLomba with a time of 23:06.9 and Thomas 23:15.8. Sophomore Amanda Sousa (Peabody, MA) placed 10th in 23:37.3 while freshman Sarah Merullo (Wakefield, MA) took 11th in 23:41.1 to cap UML scorers. Senior Robin Osbourne (Methuen, MA) placed 15th to garner All-Northeast Region honors and sophomore Holly Johnson (Tyngsboro, MA) placed 36th to close out UMLs contingent.

--Courtesy Mass.-Lowell