Men’s X-Country 16th in nation

Men’s cross-country placed 16th among 24 schools at the 2001 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship in Rock Island, Ill. on November 18. The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse won the national title with 80 points, gapping runner-up Calvin College by a 60-point margin.

Though Calvin had four athletes earn all-American distinction to La Crosse’s three, Calvin’s fifth man finished 94 places and 1:13 behind his closest teammate. Not only were La Crosse’s fourth and fifth men 39th and 41st, respectively, but the Eagles’ sixth and seventh took 76th and 115th, comprising a tighter team through seven men than any other in attendance.

For the first time this season ? and in the last race of his four-year cross country career ? co-captain Wesley Reutimann ’02 broke away as Williams front man. Reutimann’s athletic career, stemming back to his high-school years in southern California, labors under a long list of injuries ? plantar fasciitis (a tear in the arch ligament on the bottom of the foot), stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis ? that, by their nature, make running sharply painful, if not impossible.

September and October 2001 found Reutimann once again training alone, bicycling or in the pool doing aqua-running workouts that saved his Achilles from the stresses of footstrikes and hill resistance.

Ready for Rock Island’s Highland Springs Golf Course, however, Reutimann led Williams from the outset, getting a good start amid a field of 215 harriers in which there were no stragglers. Three-quarters of a mile into the race the runners were still grouped like a dense school of fish, a mass that stretched 50 meters long and, front to back, spanned little more than ten seconds.

When the stampede began to sort itself out around the three-mile mark, the overall effect was like a convection current ? those who had traded the lead through the first two-and-a-half miles, including Keene State’s Mark Miller and Matt St. Germaine, fell back through the quickening tide of Midwestern and Great Lakes runners who had bided their time in the race’s early stages.

Reutimann continued working up the chain of jerseys in front of him, building through each mile and barreling down the final straightaway ? 100 meters long on a low-grade downhill pitch ? until he found himself 42nd in a time of 25:10 (an average mile pace of 5:02, up and down hills). He was just six seconds short of 35th place, which would have made him all-American.

Mitchell Baker ’04 ran his race in a similar fashion, though he felt he lost ground in the third and fourth miles.

Baker was the Ephs’ number-two man, crossing the line 78th in 25:35. Neal Hannan ’03 (95th) and Chris Garvin ’03 (121st) finished within 17 seconds of each other, in 25:45 and 26:02, respectively. Matt Winkler ?04 was fifth-man for Williams, arriving in 26:12 for 139th place. Shamus Brady ’04 (158th, 26:24) and Karl Remsen ’03 (170th, 26:35) pulled through to bring the Ephmen home. The team’s cumulative score of 346 put them 16th, two points behind 15th place Keene State (344) and 33 points behind 11th place Bowdoin.

While some on the Williams squad were disappointed with their personal performances, the men fared well as a team. The Div. III rankings had put Williams 17th, which the Ephs ultimately bettered by one. Williams had finished fifth behind Keene State, Bowdoin, MIT and Tufts at the New England regional meet a week earlier, but at nationals topped MIT (20th) by 34 points and Tufts (23rd) by 172.

Furthermore, Williams had been fourth at the NESCAC Championship in late October, but in Illinois rose to second place among their NESCAC competitors. Like La Crosse, though on a different scale, Williams proved itself the tightest team from New England, seven men deep: Williams’ fifth, sixth and seventh men outpaced their corresponding members from both Bowdoin and Keene.

The critical difference among the final scores, however, is that Bowdoin and Keene each had two men garner all-American honors, and Williams did not.

Lastly, by finishing 16th, Williams ensured that four teams will advance from next year’s New England regional. According to the selection process, a region may advance as many teams as finished in the top 16 at nationals the previous year, plus one more. For example, because Bowdoin, Keene and Williams all placed in the top 16, New England will send four teams to nationals next year.

Williams will have to wait to improve upon their 16th place finish until next year, when Division III nationals will be held at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.