Anna Doyle knows she likely won’t end the season as one of the top seven runners on the Colby College women’s cross country team.

The Colby sophomore hope to make an impact nonetheless.

“I really want to be in that top 12,” said Doyle, 19, of Winthrop. “That would let me compete at the (New England Small College Athletic Conference) championships. Our team is so strong. The top seven are so incredible. There is a lot of good team competition. I’m hopeful. We’ll see.”

Colby coach Deb Aitken, who is in her 27th season, divides her team into tiers of seven. The top seven are the key scorers at meets.

The next seven, which Doyle is part of, also compete with the aspirations of moving up.

The Mules opened the season ranked 18th in the NCAA Division III. They return five of their top seven runners, including co-captains senior Robyn St. Laurent and junior Berol Dewdney.

“Anna is starting right up there” said Aitken, whose team finished fifth at the NCAA New England Region meet last season. “She hasn’t moved into our top seven, but she’s had a great start to the year. She has improved remarkably.”

At the Williams College Invitational last weekend, Doyle finished the 6-kilometer course in 25 minutes, 34 seconds. She was 11th amongst the 15 Colby runners.

Doyle, 19, finished eighth at a season-opening Class Relay meet on Sept. 8. She finished the 5-kilometer race in 20:30.08.

“It’s always a dream to be in the top seven, but I’d be happy with a top 12 this year,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot. When I came in as a freshman, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. It took me awhile to get to where I already am now. I’m much smarter where I am now compared to where I was as a first-year student.”

The top 12 runners can change from week to week, depending on performances.

Aitken says Doyle has room to move up.

“We’re excited where she is,” Aitken said. “We have a pretty clear-cut top seven right now, but she could get into that top nine. We’ll see.”

Doyle says she is considering a double major of theater and psychology. Last spring, she spent the bulk of her time working on the school production of “Tartuffe,” a French play. She said the experience, while rewarding, hindered her training.

“It was hard,” she said, “to balance the play and sports. It was really, really hard to juggle. But now I am doing the theater later, so I’m confident I can do both. I want to keep running. I’m passionate about it. Running is what I want to do.”

Added Aitken: “She rises to the occasion. She has the ability to be a top-seven runner for us. She gets better as the distances get longer. She is really seeing the benefits of her training now.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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