The Williams men’s cross country team closed out its season this weekend at the NCAA Championship meet in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.The Eph harriers were coming off a third-place finish at the New England Championships. New England is recognized as one of the strongest regions in the country and was accordingly awarded the maximum of five team berths to the national meet. Williams’ relatively young team headed into America’s Dairyland looking to prove that it could compete at the national level.
The NCAA meet was expanded this year to include 24 teams and a total of 184 runners. As the focal point of every team’s season, the meet is marked by extremely intense competition. Even for runners with experience in the postseason, running in the national championship is a difficult task.
The sheer size of the field presents a serious obstacle for all but the most elite front-runners as the huge mass of athletes jockeys for position around the turns. Williams put three first-time competitors on the starting line in Oshkosh, and all three acquitted themselves admirably, as did the more experienced Ephs. The pancake-flat course and favorable conditions made for fast times all around. Tim Campbell ’01 ran a phenomenal time of 24:30 and captured All-American honors with his 33rd place finish. Campbell, already an All-American in track, capped off a strong season by executing a good tactical race. “I wanted to get a good start, lock myself into the top 40, and slowly move up in All-American range (top 35), and I did that.”
Dusty Lopez ’01 was next across the line for the Ephs, running 25:01 for 74th place. A good pack of Ephs followed closely behind, as tri-captain Shad Miller ’00 ran his best race of the season, finishing 91st in 25:08. The fact that only seven seconds separated 74th and 91st place is a good indication of the density of the field.
Only two seconds after Miller, Wes Reutimann ’02 crossed the line, clocking 25:10 for 96th place. Neal Hannan ’03 rebounded from a down race last week to close out the Eph scoring, finishing in 117th place with his time of 25:24. Justin Wilson ’03 and Reed Harlow ’01 completed the top seven places.
The Ephs totaled 284 points to finish 11th overall, just behind New England rivals Tufts and Bates. At full strength, Williams is easily a top ten team, but a nagging shin injury hampered Reutimann slightly and Harlow had not raced for nearly a month after a lingering illness. The Williams runners’ response to adversity over the last month of the season was commendable.
On the long trip home, Coach Pete Farwell accentuated the positive aspects of the race and the season.
“We ran a good team race at nationals,” Farwell said. “Our spread from Campbell to Neal was under a minute, and even with a couple of guys not feeling 100 percent, we finished very few points out of eighth place or better. I think this year is going to prove to be a great springboard for next year, when the first-years come back with a little experience and more training.”
Overall, the Ephs enjoyed a successful season, and this year’s team can be proud of its efforts. The team posted wins at home and at Geneseo, and it finished third in the New England Division III race.
After losing the core of last year’s dominant team to graduation, the Ephs ran up against strong competition from Keene State, second at this year’s NCAA meet, Tufts and Bates.
Even so, and without stars like Paul Alsdorf or Dan McCue, both members of the Class of ’99, Williams remained competitive in New England by relying on depth and team racing. New England earned national respect again this year, clinching the maximum number of berths to the national championship in 2000, and Williams will be a cross country power again next year.
Farwell will have every runner except Miller back for the 2000 season, and will be looking for improvements all around. Next year’s team will have its sights set high, on recapturing the New England championship and returning to prominence on the NCAA stage.