WATERVILLE — For Deb Aitken, the coach of the Colby College women’s cross country team, getting seniors Berol Dewdney and Morgan Lingar as team captains this season was nothing more than a formality.
“They both have just been incredible leaders, without the titles, pretty much since their sophomore year,” Aitken said.
Dewdney was a captain last season as well, but neither she nor Lingar limit their leadership to the cross country team. Lingar is Colby’s Student Government President, and Dewdney was instrumental in developing Colby’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Resource Center.
“I can’t even name all the committees they’ve been on. From the Presidential level all the way down through, they’re both, they work actively for change,” Aitken said. “They have really high goals for the team and for themselves individually. Both are incredible workers.”
This fall, Dewdney and Lingar hope to lead the Mules to the NCAA championship meet, Nov. 17 in Terre Haute, Ind. It won’t be easy. New England, and in particular, the New England Small College Athletic Conference, is home to some of the top women’s cross country teams in all of Division III. A NESCAC team has won the national championship nine of the last 12 years, and 54 New England teams are vying for five spots at the national championships, Aitken said.
With 32 runners out for the team, Aitken said that for the first time in her 28 years at Colby, she has to make cuts.
“We have 32 runners out and our budget allows us to keep 22. I’m definitely struggling with that. Cross country is not a sport you typically have to cut people,” Aitken said.
“Our goal is definitely to go to nationals. That’s been our goal and it will always be our goal,” Dewdney said. “We’ve come really, really close a few times now, and it’s been really hard to not go. It’s been a dream of mine since high school, and this is my last year. All of the fire is in the belly.”
Colby placed sixth in the New England Small College Athletic Conference meet last season, and followed that with a ninth place effort at the New England regional meet. The top five teams at the regional advance to the NCAA championship.
“Our team has an incredible amount of potential. We have 13 of our 14 top girls coming back, and I would say a lot of those girls didn’t meet their full potential last year,” said Lingar, who also will be a captain for Colby’s indoor and outdoor track teams. “Beyond that, we have a lot of go-getters and great personalities.”
As Student Government President, Lingar meets with students, staff and faculty to discuss and resolve issues affecting student life. She serves as the student representative on the board of trustees, and oversees other student government officers, including dorm and class presidents. It’s a job (Lingar is paid a stipend), on top of Lingar’s academic and athletic commitments.
“It’s a pretty hectic job,” Lingar said. “Twenty to 30 hours per week.”
Last season, Lingar battled hip and back injuries. Now healthy, she should be one of Colby’s top seven runners. Dewdney earned All-New England honors for the second straight year in 2011, placing 31st at the regional meet. At the NESCAC meet, Dewdney placed sixth, earning a spot on the all-conference first team.
As a sophomore, Dewdney started working to develop Colby’s first Gender and Sexual Diversity Student Resource Officer, a role she took on. Like Lingar’s position in student government, Dewdney’s role became a job.
“It became really clear that there was a need to provide resources to all people Colby, that wasn’t happening,” Dewdney said.
Dewdney worked with a group of faculty to craft a proposal for the board of trustees for a Gender and Sexual Diversity Resource Center.
“We got a program approved and we have a director coming in for the program this fall,” Dewdney said. “It’s super exciting. It’s really been a whirlwind, and it’s crazy to think that changes happen so quickly, and it’s happened so quickly because people have been able to work together in a way they haven’t in the past.”
Friends since they joined the Colby cross country team as freshmen together, Dewdney and Lingar feel they’re perfect co-captains. They speak several times each day, Lingar said.
“Berol and I are great friends, first of all. Somehow, we seem to agree on everything, which is ideal. But we’re also very good at communicating,” Lingar said.
Added Dewdney: “I honestly couldn’t pick a better partner. We’re really close. We’re able to really connect with each other, but we’re also not afraid of calling each other out and talking to each other. I think we’re the perfect amount of similar and different.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242