Though the Williams men’s cross-country team doesn’t have the individual strength that it had last year, the depth of this year’s team that surfaced over the weekend could very well prove to be just as effective.
The team officially opened its 1999 campaign on Saturday in Montreal at the McGill Invitational. Competing against mainly Canadian opponents, the Eph harriers finished a somewhat disappointing second but gave positive indications that the team will once again be a contender in the Division III New England chase.
The pre-race adrenaline that perennially accompanies the first race of the season was high as the Williams runners toed the starting line. The weather was nearly perfect, with a clear sunny sky and mild temperatures. Sticking to Coach Pete Farwell’s traditional early-season strategy, the Ephs started conservatively and attacked the six-kilometer McGill course in tight packs of four and five.
Working as a team proved wise as the race progressed, and Williams began steadily working up through the ranks.
By the halfway point, it was clear that Williams and Sherbrooke University were the teams to watch and that the title would go to one of these two teams.
Sherbrooke got a strong effort from its first four runners, who finished first through fourth overall. Williams showed its depth in taking the next four places and putting its top seven runners in the top fourteen.
Dusty Lopez ’01 took fifth overall for Williams with a time of 18:52, followed closely by Wes Reutimann ’02 in 18:53. Tim Campbell ’01 showed that his nagging injuries are almost healed with his 7th-place finish of 18:59.
Reed Harlow ’01 took 8th place with 19:03, and Justin Wilson ’03 grabbed the last scoring spot in 11th place, finishing in 19:09.
Wilson’s fellow first-years Neal Hannen and Karl Remsen filled out the Williams top seven. For the first-years, it was the second strong performance of the week, as the ’03 team had easily handled Deerfield 16-46 on September 15.
Although the Ephs’ top eight men all beat Sherbrooke’s fifth runner, the Canadians’ sweep of the top four places was too much to overcome. Sherbrooke took the title with a final score of 26 points to Williams’ 37.
Coach Farwell remarked, “We ran a great pack race, but Sherbrooke had the up-front strength to counter that. Even so, we ran well and this race gives me a lot of confidence about our chances this season.”
During the post-race awards ceremony, the Ephmen sent four runners to the awards stand for their top-ten finishes but had to watch as Sherbrooke took the team title. Surrendering the team championship for the first time in his four-year Williams career prompted tri-captain Teddy Wasserman ’00 to declare, “Individual awards are fine but that’s not what cross-country’s all about. Team wins are what we’re shooting for.”
Despite the second-place showing in Montreal, this year’s team seems well poised to live up to Wasserman’s statement. After losing four varsity runners to graduation, coach Farwell has a wide-open lineup to evaluate as the Ephs set their sights on the late November championship season.
Last year’s nearly invincible squad has given way to a group of talented runners with something to prove.
Different strengths are evident right away. This year’s team will feature impressive depth, evidenced by the fact that at McGill, the Ephs’ top seven finished within 24 seconds of each other. Also, a strong freshman class highlights this team’s relative youth. With only three seniors, underclassmen are sure to figure into this year’s mix.
At the same time, the team is not short on postseason experience. Campbell, Harlow, Lopez, Wasserman, and tri-captain Shad Miller ’00 have all been members of New England championship teams.
These veterans and several impressive newcomers will be looking to continue Williams’ tradition of cross-country success.
The Ephs’ campaign to defend their seven-year streak of New England Division III championships continues September 25 in the Purple Valley Classic on their home course at Mt. Greylock High School.