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Duquesne women's cross country team goes the distance

| Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 10:06 p.m.
Duquesne athletics
Duquesne cross country runners Haley Pisarcik (166) and Amber Valimont (170) led the Dukes to their first Atlantic 10 title in any women's sport.

The Duquesne women's cross country team is on a historic run, and the Dukes aren't ready for it to end yet.

After winning the school's first Atlantic 10 title in any women's sport, Duquesne will look to extend its season when it travels to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals at 1:15 p.m. Friday at Lehigh.

“We have no intention of going there just for fun,” Dukes coach Tom Slosky said. “We have business to take care of.”

The NCAA uses a complicated scoring system to determine which schools from the nine regional meets advance to the championships, which are Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. The top two teams from the Mid-Atlantic automatically move on, but the next three also typically qualify. Duquesne is ranked sixth in what's considered one of the toughest regions in the country, so a formidable challenge awaits.

“I think we're the most confident we've ever been, for sure,” said Haley Pisarcik, a South Park graduate. “We're going to race like we know how to and hopefully see the results we saw in the A-10 championships.”

Pisarcik, who finished sixth at A-10s on Nov. 2, is one of three seniors on the team, so she has seen the program rise from a conference mediocrity into an NCAA contender. Classmate Amber Valimont, a Hempfield graduate who placed a team-best fourth at A-10s, has been there all along, too.

“Previously at Duquesne, it hasn't been as much about team,” Valimont said. “We've had some good individuals here and there trying to pull the team along, but this is the first year we did something as a team. We're obviously really proud of that, and I think it's the best way to finish out my senior year.”

Slosky, a Duquesne and Highlands graduate, is no stranger to making history.

During his senior season with the Dukes in 2007, he became the first cross country runner to win the A-10 title and also the first to qualify for the NCAA championships. In 2005, he helped the Dukes win the A-10 team title, the school's first A-10 championship in any sport since 1977. Those accolades, however, didn't compare to watching his team this season.

“I never realized how good it could feel as a coach,” he said. “As an individual, you can't really see your teammates. This year, I got to see all the girls running (at the A-10 championships). I got to thinking about all the hard work they had put into it.”

The work for this season started in June. Daily workouts include a 2 12-mile run from the campus to Schenley Park, training at the park and then a run back to Duquesne. Pisarcik, who is a middle-distance runner for the track team, said she covers up to 48 miles per week, but others run more. The result is a closely knit group that featured a top six separated by less than 40 seconds at A-10s.

“We knew from the beginning of the season it was going to be special, so we really bonded over that,” Pisarcik said. “It became a common goal.

“It's been an ideal senior year.”

Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jvella@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.

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