The Williams men’s cross-country team traveled to U-Mass Dartmouth on Saturday to compete in the New England Division III championships. Coming in, the Ephs found themselves in the unfamiliar role of underdogs to Keene State and for the first time in eight years brought home less than the team championship. Williams qualified for the NCAA meet next week in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but scored 114 to finish third behind Keene and Tufts. This defeat ended a seven-year streak of New England championships for Williams.
After a narrow victory over Tufts two weeks ago at the NESCAC championships, the Eph harriers knew that New Englands would present the stiffest challenge in recent memory. Williams was racing a relatively young, inexperienced team.
When Reed Harlow ’01 was scratched due to illness, only Tim Campbell ’01 and Dusty Lopez ’01 had ever run New Englands before. Adding to the team’s worries, Wes Reutimann ’02 had been nursing a shin injury for two weeks prior to the meet. Even so, the Ephs were eager for the chance to defend the Williams tradition of dominance.
Race day brought warm, sunny conditions and the race was accordingly fast. Even though the Williams runners knew that in all likelihood the team would qualify for NCAAs, the Ephs pulled out all the stops, treating the race as if it were the last race of the season.
Everyone knew that the strategy of starting slow and working up through the pack would not be effective against the talented field and abandoned that strategy in favor of a more wide-open approach, attacking each mile from start to finish.
Campbell was the first Eph across the line in an excellent time of 24:50, good for ninth place. He was followed by Reutimann, who broke away from Lopez with less than 200 meters left to place 18th in 25:16. Lopez came across 20th in 25:18.
First-year Karl Remsen, a late addition to the Eph roster when Harlow went down, came through with a big race, placing fourth for Williams and 33rd overall in a time of 25:43. Remsen’s performance, in borrowed spikes, was a highlight of the meet for the Ephs. Tri-captain Shad Miller ’00 was right behind Remsen, running 25:46 for 34th place and closing out the scoring for Williams.
Remsen’s fellow first-years Justin Wilson and Neal Hannan completed the top seven in 43rd and 64th place, respectively.
The third place finish was a bit disappointing to a squad that had become accustomed to untouchable status in New England cross-country, but overall, the team realized it still had a lot to be proud of and a lot left to work for.
Campbell pointed out, “It’s tough to be the team that breaks the unbeaten streak. Some of us had been part of the streak and we felt the pressure to keep it going. Getting beat is never a good feeling but we are going to look past it, regroup for nationals, and plan on showing we still have a strong squad.”
Coach Pete Farwell tried to keep his runners positive, putting everything into perspective.
“Keene has a great team this year,” Farwell said. “I would’ve been jubilant if we’d beaten them because it would have taken everyone running their best race. Keene was the team to beat and they didn’t slip up. On the other hand, we knew that Tufts could beat us if all their guys ran their best race, and they did.”
Farwell also pointed out the positive contributions of the first-year runners. “Karl ran a great race. Two weeks ago [at NESCACs] it was Neal who stepped up. Those guys are only going to improve and they are already running remarkably well.”
The Ephs will spend the next week recovering and regrouping for the NCAA meet.
The long march to the New England championships is over, and even with a third place finish, Williams’ status as Team of the Decade in New England Division III men’s cross-country is secure. Next week the season wraps up in Wisconsin, as the Ephs will run for continued respect on the national level.