Kaitlynn Saldanha couldn’t watch.

Middlebury College teammate Margo Cramer was running the anchor leg (the 1,600-meter segment) of the women’s distance medley relay at the NCAA Division III indoor track and field championships, holding a comfortable lead.

A year earlier, Cramer was in the same position but failed to hold on, and the Panthers finished seventh.

“I didn’t want to see most of the race,” said Saldanha, a senior distance runner from Scarborough. “It was too nerve-wracking to watch.”

But Saldanha stopped and watched the final lap, cheering on Cramer as she held the lead, giving Middlebury a national championship in the event. The Panthers won the distance medley relay with a time of 11:47.96.

“It means so much more than if I had won an individual title,” said Saldanha. “It was a great way to end the indoor season.”

The distance medley relay consists of legs of 1,200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters. Saldanha, who runs the 800, said the experience of last year’s race was instrumental in the victory.

“There are so many nerves that go into the nationals,” she said. “Look at all the events, everyone shows a little bit of nerves, especially if it’s the first time at the meet. Every time I’ve gone, the nerves are a little less.”

Saldanha went to the cross country nationals as a freshman, to the indoor and outdoor track and field nationals as a sophomore in the 800, and to the indoor nationals as a junior in the distance medley relay.

Middlebury Coach Martin Beatty said Saldanha’s impact on the program has gone far beyond her personal success.

“She has been great for four years,” he said. “I’m always so sad when someone like Kaitlynn leaves.”

“Mentally and physically she’s so much stronger than she was when she arrived here. . . . You know, feisty is not an adjective that you normally use for a distance runner, but that’s the way she is on the track. She has been such a force for us.”

The championship simply crowned her career. And she’s glad it was in a team event. “Track is an individual sport,” she said, “but when you put a team together like this, it is fantastic.”

Saldanha stressed that the title was a five-person achievement. Erin Toner, who normally runs the 1,200, couldn’t compete in the nationals because of an illness. So senior Sophia Spring, who had never run a 1,200, took her place.

Juliet Ryan-Davis ran second — the 400 — and gave Saldanha the baton with a slight lead. “I was just able to take it and run unobstructed,” she said.

As was Cramer. “She has a great kick,” said Saldanha. “Once I watched that last lap, I knew we would win.”

Saldanha will graduate in the spring with a degree in international politics and economics. She plans to spend the summer in South America, working for Wildnerness Ventures, a teen adventure program based in Wyoming that teaches people to respect the environment. Beyond that? She’s not sure, only that her career will somehow involve travel. “I cannot imagine not having an international career of some kind,” she said.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY

Junior forward Melissa Rundlett of Saco (Kents Hill) scored three goals to help Norwich University win the NCAA Division III championship with a 5-2 victory over top-ranked RIT last Saturday. Rundlett had 18 goals and 17 assists for Norwich (25-4-1), which lost in the championship game a year ago. Senior forward Brittane Michaud of Lewiston (St. Dominic) had an assist in the championship game and finished the season with seven goals and 11 assists. Junior defenseman Mollie Fitzpatrick of Portland (Cheverus) appeared in eight games for the Cadets, with three assists.

MEN’S LACROSSE

Senior attack Eugene Arsenault of South Portland is the leading goal scorer for Clark (1-4). Arsenault has eight goals and one assist and has collected five ground balls. He scored a career-high five goals in a 7-6 overtime loss to Mt. Ida. Arsenault, who missed last season with a knee injury, is joined on the Cougars’ roster by senior defender Sam McAdam of Portland (three ground balls and two caused turnovers in two games) and senior midfielder Ben Stuart of Cumberland (Greely), who has collected one ground ball in one game.

Junior Matthew Howard of Brunswick is playing as an attack and defender for Wheelock in Boston. He had three ground balls in the team’s opening loss.

SOFTBALL

Senior third baseman Kortney Nedeau of Kennebunk returns as the top power hitter for Plymouth State. She hit .360 with seven home runs, 10 doubles and 24 RBI last year. For her career, Nedeau is hitting .341 with 16 home runs and 69 RBI. She’s joined on the Panthers’ roster by freshman catcher Megan Fifeld of Arundel (Thornton Academy).

Junior catcher Megan Blier of Wells has helped Bentley get off to its best start (7-3) since 1977. Blier had several clutch base hits for the Falcons during their Florida trip, including a two-run homer in a 5-1 win over St. Michael’s.

Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Kelsey Crowe of Gorham is the third-leading hitter for Thomas (6-6). She’s batting .375 with nine RBI. Junior infielder Samantha Robison of South Berwick (Marshwood) is hitting .235 with six runs and three RBI. They’re joined on the roster by freshmen Allyssa Giroux of Phippsburg (Morse) and Kate Thibodeau of Woolwich (Morse).

SWIMMING

Gettysburg (Pa.) junior Matt Libby of Freeport (Cheverus) will compete in three events at the NCAA Division III championships this week at the University of Tennessee. He will swim in the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyle races. Libby is ranked sixth in the 100 (45.23 seconds), eighth in the 200 (45.23) and 37th in the 50 (21.09).

WOMEN’S LACROSSE

Sophomore midfielder Ceara DiBiase had four goals and two assists for Thomas in an opening victory over Wheelock. She also collected four ground balls. Freshman midfielder Jillian Lambert of Dayton (Thornton Academy) added two goals, one ground ball and three draw controls. Sophomore midfielder Jasmine Ryan of Berwick (Noble) and freshman defender China Page of Lebanon (Noble) also played for the Terriers.

Senior attack Lauren Sawyer of Westbrook has four goals and three assists for Keene State (1-1). She also has collected two ground balls and caused two turnovers.

Southern New Hampshire University freshman attack Ellie Morin of Scarborough was named to the Northeast-10 Conference weekly honor roll after collecting three goals and two assists in a 23-4 victory over Southern Connecticut State. For the season she has 16 goals and five assists in five games.

Junior midfielder Ashley Allen of South Portland (Waynflete) has three goals and one assist for Hamilton (2-0), which is ranked second in the nation. Junior midfielder Kate Otley of Cumberland (Greely) also has three goals for the Continentals, and sophomore midfielder Mariah Monks of Cape Elizabeth (Waynflete) has one goal.

Senior attack Maria DeStefano of Eliot (Marshwood) has 13 goals and one assist for Merrimack (3-2). She also has eight ground balls and two draw controls.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:
[email protected]