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December 5, 2013

Newburyport's national champion: Suda wins 2nd NIRCA title in 3 years

Suda wins NIRCA title for 2nd time in 3 years

A national championship might seem like the perfect ending to a cross-country career for many runners, but Betsy Suda isn’t like many runners.

Suda, who continues to get faster 13-plus years after graduating from Newburyport High, won the 2013 National Intercollegiate Running Club Association national championship Nov. 16 in Hershey, Pa. Suda broke the tape in 22:22, bettering a course record set by 2012 champion Becky Boyle of Indiana by nine seconds. Suda, who also won the NIRCA national title in 2011, became the first runner in NIRCA’s eight-year history to win more than one national title.

The national championship meet marked Suda’s final race as a member of the University of Florida team. The 32-year-old graduate student will graduate this month with a Masters degree in biochemistry. She has accepted a position at Santa Fe Community College teaching basic chemistry and organic chemistry.

Suda beat University of Minnesota grad student Cara Donahue, the second-place finisher, by 20 seconds on a hilly course. North Carolina sophomore Alyssa Vassallo placed third two seconds behind Donahue.

“It was a best-case scenario for me,” Suda said. “The race went out really quickly, like most large races do. We funneled to a narrow path. The girl from Minnesota went right to the front, and I let her go. After the first half mile, I saw the gap between us wasn’t being extended. I started to move up on her, and when I was right with her, she said, ‘Good job.’ I thought she would race me for a little longer, but she was content to let me go past her.”

Suda led the race from just before the 1K mark all the way to the finish of the 6K course. It served as a bit of redemption for the 2000 Newburyport High graduate, who finished ninth in the NIRCA national championship last fall. Suda, who is used to training on flat terrain in Florida, won the 2011 race on a fast course at McAlpine Park in Charlotte, NC. She struggled on the hills when the national championship moved to Hershey last fall.

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