The Williams men’s cross-country team officially opened the championship season with the NESCAC championship at Hamilton College on Saturday.
The race would prove to be a test of the Ephs’ resilience, but Williams’ team depth proved to be the difference once again.
The Eph harriers secured their sixth consecutive NESCAC team championship, scoring 47 points to second place Tufts’ 59.
Williams knew from the start that NESCAC wouldn’t be the cakewalk it has been in recent years because of surprisingly stiff competition from Tufts, and because the team has been physically depleted.
The normally front-running Tim Campbell ’01 was a late scratch from the Williams lineup, staying home to recover from illness, and nagging injuries have slowed other members of the varsity over the last week.
However, Williams responded to the adversity with gutsy performances all around. After a conservative first mile, the Ephs found themselves neck and neck with Tufts, and as the race progressed it became clear that Tufts wouldn’t give up without a fight.
With less than a half mile to go, the race was still up for grabs as Wes Reutimann ’02 and tri-captain Shad Miller ’00, running fourth and fifth for Williams, trailed Tufts’s fourth and fifth runners.
Working together, Miller and Reutimann were able to overtake the faltering Jumbos and with their strong push at the finish, they nailed down the victory for Williams.
Reutimann ran an exceptionally courageous race, fighting through a painful shin injury. However, he and Miller weren’t the only Eph heroes in this race.
Neal Hannan ’03 ran the race of his young collegiate career, finishing first for Williams and in fourth place overall, with an excellent time of 26:29 on the eight kilometer course.
After being a junior varsity racer most of the season, Hannan altered his normal strategy of starting hard and was able to conserve energy for the latter half of the race, when he moved up through the pack steadily and finishing strong.
“We had fair warning ahead of time that it wouldn’t be easy to win,” Hannan said. “With a mile to go I just felt good and thought, ‘I have to move up, right now.’”
Reed Harlow ’01 was next for the Ephs, running 26:34 for seventh place. Dusty Lopez ’01 finished third for Williams in a time of 26:44 for ninth place.
Miller and Reutimann finished together in a time of 26:57, with Miller claiming 13th place with a lean at the finish line and Reutimann securing 14th to round out the Williams scoring. All of the top five Ephs captured All-NESCAC individual honors.
Fellow first-years Justin Wilson and Karl Remsen filled out the Williams top seven.
Miller hailed the contribution of the first-years, especially Hannan, saying, “Neal’s race surprised everyone. No one expected that from him today. I don’t think he expected it from himself.”
Coach Pete Farwell was proud of his team after the race, commenting, “We had a lot to overcome with Campbell getting sick, and a couple of guys nursing injuries, but we came through in the end. Neal really ran a great race. That was a huge contribution.”
The Williams top seven has next week off as the second seven travels to ECACs in Grafton.
However, in two weeks top-ranked Keene State awaits the Eph varsity at the New England Division III Championships.
The Ephs will be simultaneously training hard and trying to get healthy as they gear up to defend their seven-year streak of New England championships.