Fifth place regional finish earns men’s harriers NCAA trip

Men’s cross-country finished fifth behind Keene State (54 points), Bowdoin (83), MIT (106) and Tufts (113) at the 2001 Division III New England Regional Championship held at Westfield State College on Saturday. As a result, the team has earned a trip to the NCAA Division III National Championship on Nov. 17.

Only the top five teams earned a ticket to race one more week and represent New England at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Williams (128) beat sixth-place Trinity (149) to secure the critical fifth-place berth.

Despite areas of loose footing and a deceptive, gradual uphill that marked the second and fifth miles, Westfield’s 8K (five mile) course was flat and fast, tricking much of the field of 247 runners to blaze through the first mile in well under five minutes.

Williams’ pack found itself among the front 40 harriers less than a half-mile off the starting line, with Karl Remsen ’03 leading the Ephs’ charge. Mark Miller of Keene State established and maintained a decisive lead from the outset, clocking a final time of 24:53. Behind him, however, a group of 10 runners – including Remsen – had broken away from those behind them, running much of the race in a shifting line that stretched four abreast.

“I kept telling myself, ’second place is right there,’” said Remsen. “I could see it, and I just hung on.” Remsen finished 12th overall in a time of 25:30.

Co-captain Wes Reutimann ’02, after holding steady through miles three and four began to close on the leaders with a mile remaining in the race, ultimately climbing to 17th in 25:38. Shamus Brady ’04 (25th, 25:54) and Mitchell Baker ’04 (26th, 25:55) crossed the line soon after.

“I went out too hard, and when I fell back to Mitch I was dying,” Brady related. “He’d started more conservatively. I waved him on but he wouldn’t leave. He just kept telling me, ’No, you’re going with me. C’mon, you’re going with me.’ Then we came up out of the woods and were back on the main field with 1200 meters to go. We heard coach [Ralph] White say, ’Gentlemen, need a couple more,’ and that was it. Mitch and I passed about six guys in that last section.”

By placing among the top 35 individuals, Remsen, Reutimann, Brady and Baker garnered all-Division III New England honors.

Chris Garvin ’03 was Williams’ fifth man on the day, placing 48th in 26:23. Matt Winkler ’04 (62nd, 26:36) and Neal Hannan ’03 (68th, 26:43) completed the Ephs’ contingent.

“I told them to get out a little bit at the start, not too much, and feel good,” said head coach Peter Farwell. “But then they went through the first mile so fast, and I was thinking, ’Whoa, they’re already in the top group and it’s so early.’ They were really ready to race – all those nerves up. They ran well.”

Jeff Garland ’03, who had filmed much of the race with a camcorder, was working with assistant coach Trevor Bayliss ’99 to ease the tension and tally unofficial scores by replaying the order of finish at the chute.

“It looks like we’re fifth,” Garland said. “We know Keene and Bowdoin were ahead of us, so we’re only counting MIT, Tufts, and Trinity.” When women’s team member Paige McClanahan ’04 brought the official news that the men had indeed finished fifth, the front seven grinned with tired relief.

In addition to the other teams from New England, however, strong squads from Wisconsin-Lacrosse, Haverford, Calvin College, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and North Central will be at Augustana to meet the Ephs, as well.

“It’s not over,” said Baker on Saturday night, looking at the results from the six other Division III regional meets across the country. He was still dressed in his racing warm-ups.

“Today we had to qualify, but next week we have to run even better if we want to make the top 10. It’s good to have that pressure – if you’re a big-race performer, you run well when you know there are expectations to meet and there’s a lot at stake. You need it.”

On Thursday afternoon the men will fly to Rock Island, Ill. Friday they will survey the course, freshen their legs and enjoy the NCAA festivities. The race will be held at noon on Saturday.