After returning two riders from last year’s Little 500 championship team, Kappa Alpha Theta reloaded this year with two rookies and won the spring series in dominant fashion. And in the process, a new star was born.
Theta’s Liz Lieberman showed she is by far the best rider in the field during both ITTs and Miss N Out.
While some would argue Phoenix Cycling’s Tabitha Sherwood came in as the rider to watch in both events, it was Lieberman who came away with both of the individual titles.
Lieberman improved her ITT time from 2014 by nearly 13 seconds to jump from 21st in 2014 to capturing the crown this year.
She finished with a time of 2:36.76, shattering last year’s top time of 2:40.01 by Chi Omega’s Arryn Doll. According to IUSF records, it is the 9th fastest women’s ITT time ever. This year, it was almost two seconds faster than second place finisher Sherwood, who finished with a time of 2:38.60.
When Theta won the race last year, it had just two riders in the top 20 in ITTs in senior rookie Brenna McGinn, who finished fifth, but would go on to win the sprint finish in the race, and Katie McDougal, who finished 16th.
This season, Theta has much more speed on its roster overall. Joining Lieberman in the top 10 at ITTs was rookie Evelyn Malcomb, who finished fourth overall at 2:41.75 and Theta’s other veteran Abby Rogers, who finished eighth with a 2:43.25. Theta’s other rookie, Madeline Lambert, also snuck into the top 25 with a 2:47.06, finishing 23rd. Theta was the only team to get all four of its riders in the top 25 in ITTs.
Delta Gamma, who won the Little 500 in both 2012 and 2013 by beating Theta in a sprint finish each time, showed that it is ready to make another run at a championship with three riders finishing in the top 12 at ITTs, led by second-year rider Kristen Bignal, who improved her time by nearly 14 seconds to jump from 51st in 2014 to fifth this season. Sarah Rivich finished 10th, and Katie Ziegler also showed great improvement, cutting her time by more than 12 seconds last year to finish 12th this year.
Another surprise came out of ITTs, as second-year team Ski, which finished third in the spring series, flexed its muscles from the very beginning with second-year rider Megan Huibregtse, who finished sixth overall in ITTs. Huibregtse improved her 2014 time by about 11.5 seconds to move from 36th in 2014 to sixth this season. Her teammate Ashley King finished 16th to help Ski to some more early points.
Lieberman once again was the last woman standing at Miss N Outs, beating out Sherwood in the final heat. Alpha Chi Omega’s Sydney Schreiber finished third, Huibregtse fourth, Bignal fifth and Kappa Delta’s Libby Momper sixth in the final.
Other semifinalists included Malcomb, Gamma Phi Beta’s Allison Eschbach, Rogers, AChiO’s Alexandra Kolar, King, Teter’s Julia Thomas, Ziegler, Alpha Gamma Delta’s Siobhan McCulloch, Melanzana’s Fallon Lilly and Delta Sigma Pi’s Cecelia Oxford.
Last year, Lieberman did not even advance to the semifinals, once again proving how much she has improved during this offseason. Momper was the only rider from last year’s final to return to this year’s final.
It was a relatively spread out point distribution in Miss N Out, with only Theta, DG, AChiO and Ski advancing two riders to at least the semis. Theta was the only team to advance three to the semis, giving them the upper hand, again, in points. No team had two representatives in the final.
In Team Pursuit, AChiO once again reached the final, and once again finished runner-up to a non-Greek team. Ski won Team Pursuit, posting a time of 8:10.01 in the final, the best time since Teter’s 8:00.10 in 2011. It was six seconds faster than Teter’s winning time last season. Teter had won Team Pursuit five straight years. Kappa Delta is the last Greek team to win Team Pursuit, in 2009.
AChiO improved its final time from last year by almost 12 seconds, finishing in 8:17.93, but it wasn’t enough to topple Ski, which returns three of its riders from last year’s 7th place race finish.
Theta once again finished third, repeating last year’s finish.
But thanks to the big performances from Lieberman and Co. in ITTs and Miss N Out, Theta easily walked away with the spring series championship. However, like the men’s winner, it will not be wearing the white jersey on race day, as it will be wearing yellow as the defending race champions.