Basalt runner wins DIII title
WINNECONNE, Wis. – Chiara Del Piccolo describes 2010’s trip to the Division III NCAA Cross Country Championships as a largely “overwhelming” experience.
“It was crazy. There were spectators everywhere, and the race was huge,” the Basalt High alum and current Williams College (Mass.) student recounted Tuesday.
“It was a good experience for me at the time, though. It was nice to know what to expect a little bit [this year].”
Del Piccolo appeared well prepared and comfortable in Saturday’s NCAAs at Lake Breeze Golf Course in Winneconne, Wis. She lingered near the front of the 277-runner field at the outset of the six-kilometer race, stayed close when one participant attempted to pull away with about 11⁄2 miles remaining, surged into the lead about 800 meters from the finish and hung on for a five-second victory with a time of 20 minutes, 52.08 seconds. The effort helped propel the Ephs to a third-place finish.
By virtue of the victory – her fourth in as many races to close out an impressive sophomore campaign – the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Performer of the Year garnered All-America and National Runner of the Year honors.
She also is a candidate for Honda Division III Women’s Athlete of the Year.
“I don’t think I believed it until I crossed the finish. … I’m not entirely sure I believed it then, either,” joked the three-sport athlete, who wound up 55th in this race as a freshman. “At the beginning of the season I wasn’t running well. I was training pretty hard because I wanted to run well toward the end of the season. I wasn’t sure if I would be where I wanted to be at the end … but I guess things worked out.”
Del Piccolo sacrificed early season results with an ambitious training regimen that included sessions with the men’s team once a week.
As the season wore on and her mileage was curtailed “to achieve her highest peak,” head coach Pete Farwell said in a school news release, Del Piccolo took off.
She picked up a win at the Little Three Championship against Amherst and Wesleyan University, then triumphed at the NESCAC championships. At last week’s New England Regional meet in Brunswick, Maine, Del Piccolo again topped the field, pulling away with roughly a mile to go and besting her nearest competitor by about 15 seconds.
Next, she set her sites on nationals.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she admitted. “I just kind of went in knowing I wanted to go out as hard as I could and see how I felt at the end.”
Del Piccolo made her way to the front, then ran with the lead group for little more than a mile.
Senior Christy Cazzola of host school University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh attempted to pull away down the stretch.
“The first half of the race obviously wasn’t easy, but I felt pretty in control,” Del Piccolo said. “When she made that move, I was like, ‘OK, this is where the race starts. This is where I have to start running hard.’
“In the last maybe 800 meters … I kind of went by her a little bit and sort of dropped her. … I was afraid she was going to come back – I think she won the 1,500 [meter DIII national title] in outdoor track, so I knew she had a kick.”
That kick could not keep Del Piccolo from clinching Williams’ first women’s individual national cross country title since 1995, however.
Del Piccolo’s parents greeted her at the finish.
“It was really fun to be there,” her father, Dario, wrote in an email to The Aspen Times. “She is running so smart and so determined that it is hard to imagine her not winning.”
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