Men runners secure third at Nationals

A season of hard work, glorious victories and eternal memories came to an end on Saturday for the Williams Men’s Cross-country team. The result of their blood, sweat and toil was the chance to compete for the national title. In the end, the Ephmen, after laying it on the line, finished third in the country behind perennial champion North Central and powerhouse Calvin College.

Williams came into the meet as the top ranked team in the country, just a couple of points ahead of North Central. The race was thought to be a shootout between the Ephs and the Cardinals and from the gun it was. The pack went out strong, but not as fast as in previous years. Senior co-captains Paul Alsdorf and Dan McCue were both in the front pack as they’ve been all year. The top two runners for North Central, Colin Young and Eric Dieckman, were also in the front pack.

They came through the mile in 4:52 and everyone was still there. The harriers continued on across the grassy fields into a long straightaway that gave the pack a chance to separate. Now, the front pack was able to pull away slightly. Still there were North Central’s runners and Alsdorf; McCue had dropped a few meters off the pack.

Further back, the struggle was also raging. North Central’s third man was around twenty-fifth place but not too far off of him was Williams sophomore sensation Tim Campbell. Close to Campbell were the twin Tennessee seniors Jeffrey Edmonds and Andy Anderson. No one was sure who was winning; the final outcome of the race was still in doubt.

The leaders came through the two mile mark in 10:03. Alsdorf was still there, with McCue right off the pack. Dieckman and Young, were also still with the front pack as they proceeded into the third mile. In the second, more substantial pack Campbell and Anderson were holding there own, but Edmonds, showing signs of the sickness that had kept him from practice for much of the week, seemed a bit off. He refused to give in and continued driving towards the finish.

The pack was now in the penultimate stages of the race. They retraced their steps back the way they came, through a hairpin turn, back around the edge of campus. Things were different up front now though. North Central’s Young had faltered somewhat. He had fallen back to around fifteenth place. Alsdorf was still in front, dueling with the remaining Eric Dieckman. McCue remained in about twelfth place, running strong.

With less than a mile to go the pack had strung out. Alsdorf was in third, just behind arch-rival Dave Cooper of Mt. Union and ahead of Dieckman. McCue was there too and they entered the half-mile loop that would take them out of the sight of the spectators before returning for the last stretch of the race.

Meanwhile Campbell was in a solid forty-fifth place keeping North Central’s third man in sight for a final push towards him. Behind him was Anderson and then sophomore Dusty Lopez attempting to take on the load that the weakened Edmonds would normally carry. Shad Miller ’00 was there too, knowing that the race was far from over.

The leaders then swept out of the loop and into the final stretch. In first was Dieckman and moving hard and kicking strongly behind him was Alsdorf in second. They had dropped Cooper and the race for the win had been reduced to two men. They swept up the last hill and onto the final straightaway and threw everything they had into that final sprint, but Dieckman’s 800-meter speed was just too much for Alsdorf as he came in second.

The rest of the leaders started to come in and McCue’s patience served him well. Kicking hard through the line, McCue picked off a number of runners, including Cooper at the line, and finished in seventh. North Central’s Young came in at fifteenth.

After two men, it was all Williams. Not since the days of Jeremie Perry and Marzuki Stevens had Williams placed two runners that high in the national meet.

As the rest of the pack poured in though, things did change. North Central’s third man held on to twenty-sixth place. Campbell, having tried to go after the Cardinal runner, came in exhausted for Williams at forty-eighth place, just behind North Central’s fourth man. Anderson and Lopez ran in strongly for Williams but it was to no avail. Rounding out the Williams contingent was a completely spent Edmonds, who collapsed at the line, with Miller closing hard.

Lost in the fray was Calvin who ran tough and was able to also edge Williams in the final team scoring.

Williams still took home the third place trophy and can claim two of the top 10 runners in Division III. After the race, the harriers were left having gone for the win. Alsdorf and McCue were right there and Edmonds refused to succumb to sickness when the safe bet might have been to run conservatively. Edmonds laid it all on the line.

Campbell went after North Central at the end when perhaps the safe bet might have been to wait and hold place. Anderson dared to move hard in the middle, and Lopez tried to take up what Edmonds could not.

There was no playing it safe here. They went for the win and they didn’t get it. The attempt in itself is something to be enormously proud of.

For some this was the end and for some just the beginning. To the seniors, we say good luck and thanks for an amazing four years. To those returning, we tell them to dream because one thing is sure: next year, Williams will be back and again they will be fighting to win.

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