MEDFORD – For the second time this season, senior tri-captain Natalie Bettez of the Tufts University women's cross country team was named U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Athlete of the Week today.
Bettez first won the award two weeks ago on September 24 when she was first at the Purple Valley Classic hosted by Williams College. She was an obvious choice this week after she beat a field of Division I, II and III runners at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association Championship (NEICAAA) on Saturday.
Running 17:57.85 over five kilometers, Bettez finished four seconds ahead of Division I Boston College's Fian Sullivan Sweeney (18:01.87). Delia Hayes and Paige Duca, both also from BC, were third and fourth in the race with 18:04.34 and 18:05.80 times, respectively. Holy Cross junior Jenna Gasparrini rounded out the top five with an 18:05.90 mark. The full field included 167 runners. Bettez's finish was 25 seconds better than the time she ran on the same course last year (18:23) when she was 11th.
"I was worried about going out too fast, but I felt good so stayed where I was," she recalled after the race. "More runners dropped back in the second mile with the big hill, and going into the last mile I was around eighth place. At that point I was feeling pretty good, but I didn't really think about taking the lead until I found that I was gaining on the lead runners. I passed the front runner with about 1,000 meters to go, and I did my best to hold the lead to the finish."
She is the first Jumbo to win the event since Kathy Whitcomb from Tufts won the inaugural NEICAAA 5k for women in 1975.
In addition to her wins at Williams and in the New England Championship, Bettez also won the Pineland Super XC Shootout hosted by Bates September 15.
Bettez began her preseason training for 2018 in Seville, Spain, where she studied abroad last semester. She ran along the Guadalquivir River and in the city's many parks.