BOSTON, Mass. – Bentley University junior Tara Dooley (Lee/Lee HS) pulled away from teammate and runner-up Amy Varsell (Burlington, Conn./Lewis S. Mills HS) late to capture the 2013 NCAA Division II East Regional championship by nearly 37 seconds Sunday afternoon at Franklin Park.
Dooley covered the 6,000-meter course in 21:19.20 and Varsell, who stayed with the Northeast-10 Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year for much of the race, followed her across the line in 21:56.1.
Those two, coupled with an eighth-place showing by senior Ashley Nichols (Kenmore, Wash./ Inglemoor HS), helped Bentley finish second overall, a performance that earned the Falcons a second trip to the NCAA Division II Championships in three years. That meet will be contested Nov. 23 in Spokane, Wash., which was also the site in 2011 when coach Kevin Curtin's team made its first visit.
"It was really nice to see Tara finally get a win at the Regionals after a pair of runner-up finishes the last two years," said Curtin. "She and Amy did a nice job of working together through the middle of the race to separate themselves from the others and Tara's strength allowed her to move away from Amy. This was also Amy's best cross country race ever and while it isn't her specialty, she's becoming more confident in her cross country abilities."
Dooley became Bentley's first NCAA Division II East Region champion since Julie Doherty in 2001.
Nichols, who'll be returning to her home state for the nationals for the second time, finished in 22:58.6. Bentley's top five also included sophomore Sarah Brennan (Quincy/Notre Dame Academy) and junior Nikki Sirignano (Wilmington/Wilmington HS). Brennan was 45th in 24.09.8 and Sirignano 51st in 24.23.4.
"We're obviously thrilled to be heading back to the NCAAs and Spokane again," said Curtin. "The ladies have worked hard all fall and it paid off today with great performances across the board, especially from Sarah and Nikki, who each improved around 50 places from last year's race."
Stonehill College captured the team title with 57 points while Bentley finished at 105. The third qualifier was Merrimack College, with a score of 149.