By Shanna O’Mara and Brandon Scalea
This was the last Rider Invitational for fifth-year senior and returning All-American Emily Ritter, who finished the 6,000m race in 22:08.5, placing first of 141 runners at Rosedale Park on Sept. 19.
For Head Coach Bob Hamer, the race was exciting and bittersweet.
“Emily is the best cross country runner that we have ever had at Rider,” he said. “She is very talented but has also worked hard and trained diligently this whole summer. I thought she ran a great race and proved that she is still in top form and ready to compete for another season.”
Ritter, who is able to compete this season after an injury stole her 2013 cross country campaign, has mixed feelings about her final days on the collegiate course.
“After coming off a successful track season, I was honestly a little nervous going into this race,” Ritter said. “The Rider Invite was my first race of the year, and I wasn’t really sure what kind of shape I would be in. However, I did know that there were a lot of talented athletes in the race, so placing first was very exciting.”
The 2014-15 Rider female Athlete of the Year has earned All-East honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.
Last spring, she brought national attention to Rider when she competed at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon. She ultimately finished ninth in the nation in the 3,000m steeplechase, earning herself All-American honors.
This fall is her last chance to showcase her hard work and talent to her coaches, teammates and, most importantly, herself.
“Having this final year of eligibility means the world to me, especially since the team is a group of very talented ladies,” Ritter said. “In my post-collegiate years I know I’m going to train and race, but as of right now I’m just happy to have this opportunity. I’m looking forward to all the races to come.”
Rider placed fourth of 10 teams at the invitational behind Quinnipiac, Monmouth and Marist. Along with Ritter, two additional Broncs finished in the top eight. Senior Nicolette Mateescu ran the course in 22:21.0, finishing in third place, and junior Megan McGarrity placed eighth in 23:12.6, after struggling early.
Ritter said she felt excited about her teammates’ high placement.
“I am so happy for both Nicolette and Meg. They are tremendous athletes and are on a whole new level this year,” she said. “I have Nicolette as a training partner this year so it’s exciting to know that I have her to work with for upcoming races.”
As for Hamer, he is happy with his team’s first showing of the year, but acknowledged that improvement is needed.
“I thought we were very good up-front through our first three runners,” he said. “They executed well and had some really great results. We just need to close the gap on our fourth and fifth runners to improve our team score. It is early in the season and we expect to see that improvement as the year progresses.”
Rosedale Park will host the MAAC Championships later this season. Currently ranked tenth in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Rider women are picked to finish in fifth in the championship meet.
Hamer believes that the foundation left by Ritter will lead to a very bright future for his program.
“She has raised the bar extremely high for everyone else,” Hamer said. “She has helped set a standard that has raised the performance of everyone on our team. She has high goals for this year, and if she can stay healthy, she can compete with the very best in the MAAC and beyond.”