Roaring Fork grad captures Division III 5,000-meter title
She’s a 13-time All American. She was the first female runner to win the New England NCAA cross country qualifying race four years in a row.Her coach, Ralph White, says she’s the greatest female distance runner in the history of Williams College.But there was one accomplishment missing from Caroline Cretti’s list of accolades: a national championship.Not anymore.On March 10, the 2002-Roaring Fork graduate won the 5,000-meter Division III title by finishing the event in 16:44.57, a D-III season’s best and breaking her own personal school record as well as the Tostrud Center (the indoor track at St. Olaf College in Minnesota) record. It was also 15 seconds faster than Concordia’s Amanda Kuca, who took second.
“To finally get a national championship – she worked so hard and she deserved it. It is hard to come by. There are lots of good runners in our division, but it was well-deserved with how much she wanted it and how hard she worked,” White said. “She’s the best female distance runner we’ve ever had here – and we’ve had some good ones, but she heads the list. She’s going to be hard to beat.”Cretti, a senior at the Massachusetts school, was just happy to finally get a championship victory under her belt.”I’ve had a lot of fourth- and fifth-place finishes (in the past) and it was kinda like this has been a long time coming,” Cretti said. “I was starting to feel like an old lady who just did all right all the time.”At the start of the race, Cretti was far from the front, but White said that was all part of the plan.”Her instructions were to stay back and when people started to falter, she made her move,” White said. “Once she was ahead, I knew no one would catch her. The other runners looked like they were wearing down, and she looked like she was just warming up.”Cretti didn’t have much time to celebrate her win as, only a few minutes later, she was anchoring the 1,600-meter leg of the 5,000-meter relay.
“I had a race 15 minutes after and I was super excited, but everyone told me not to get excited and to focus on the next thing,” Cretti said.The relay got fifth after finishing the event in a time of 12:01 and all four competitors raced in multiple events.”After that race I was so tired that I was past the pure excitement,” Cretti said of her feelings after the 5,000-meter relay. “I love that I have been able to race in that relay for the past two years. Some people say ‘your coaches are crazy to make you do this,’ but really it is my choice and I would do it all over again, even if it meant doubling back like I did.”Cretti, senior co-captain of Williams College, guided her team to a second-place, D-III finish in the meet. According to White, Cretti not only helps her team by chipping in a lot of points, but also by setting a good example as a leader for the squad. “She’s a good captain. When you are that good (at running), you get that kind of respect right off the bat,” White said. “She’s a good person – a nice young lady. She’s easy to approach, but when you run like she does, she automatically gets respect.”
Being on of the three captains on the team is a job Cretti thoroughly enjoys.”It’s a fantastic role. It’s a privilege to be in that position,” Cretti said. “I feel like I can finally get other people to learn from my errors in the past and help out. We have some fantastic underclassmen and I can help them. It has been a great experience all around – I have no complaints.” The race concluded the indoor portion of Williams’ schedule, and now Cretti is preparing for the outdoor season which will begin March 25 in San Diego. Just like every other season, the senior has set high goals for herself, especially since it is her last season.”I’ll be doing the 10,000-meter and the 5,000-meter, so I hope to qualify for nationals in both of those. I’d also like to set personal bests in both of those and if I make it to nationals, hopefully I can do well there,” Cretti said. “I try not to look too far ahead because I don’t want to jinx myself.”White believes Cretti has a good chance of reaching her goals.”Once you get (a national title) once, you want to get it again. She is not the type to be satisfied,” White said. “We are looking forward to the outdoor season and hopefully she can lead us and get another one.”
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As a new transplant to the area, each week I will feature a trail within the Garfield County limits. For this inaugural week, I’m highlighting Glenwood Springs’ own Atkinson Canal Trail.