CLAREMONT, CA. 5/24/12 – Keene State College's Andrea Walsh got over the first hurdle in her bid to earn All-America honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase event at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College on Thursday night.
Walsh a senior from Bolton, Conn, posted the fourth best time in her heat and the eighth best overall time of 10:55.42 in the event to move onto to the finals that will be held Saturday at 4:45 p.m. Eastern time. The top five runners in each heat and the next four fastest times move onto the finals.
"I was a little bit nervous before the race because it's the first time the NCAA has held preliminary races in the event. I wanted to make sure I reached the finals," said Walsh, who placed 13th in the event at last year's championships.
Amherst junior and race favorite Keri Lambert of Amherst College quickly separated herself from the field and coasted in to win the heat with a time of 10:43.71.
Meanwhile, Walsh, wearing bright orange running shoes around the Fritz B. Burns Staium track, executed her plan, staying in contact with the lead pack and showing little fatigue as she navigated her way over the four barriers and one water hurdle in the seven and a half lap race.
Jockeying between second and third place in the early stages of the first of two heats, Walsh dropped back before rallying for her strong fourth place finish in the heat. "I felt good," said Walsh after the race. "I knew where I needed to finish and didn't push it. Saturday will be a different story."
Keene State Coach Peter Thomas was pleased with Walsh's performance. "Andrea looked very confident and ran a good, steady race," he said. "She did what she needed to do – one race down, one more to go."
Getting sick right after posting her championship qualifying time of 10:46.41 at the Penn Relays, Walsh took some time off before building back up for the NCAA Championships. "It looks like the training paid off," said Thomas.
Walsh said there's something different about this year's national meet. "Because where in California everything is a little bit more laid back," she said. "My parents (Tim and Ann Walsh) also flew out for the championships, so that's really been nice."
Walsh said she will use the same race plan in Saturday's final that includes 14 runners. "I'm just going to do the same thing, stay with the leaders and try to hold on and get one of the top eight spots and earn All-America."
On Friday, Junior Maggie Fitter (Branford, Conn.) will be on the track, running in the preliminaries of the 800-meter event at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time. Fitter is seeded 14th in the event with a time of 2:11.10.
After finishing fifth at last year's championship, Junior Glenn Guilmette (Kensington, N.H.) will be shooting for his second straight All-America honor in the javelin on Saturday (3:40 p.m.Eastern Time).