Men’s cross country fourth at Plansky

Men’s cross country finished fourth on Saturday behind UMass-Lowell, Haverford and Elizabethtown at the first-annual 2002 Tony Plansky Invitational, held on Williams’ home course at Mt. Greylock High School.

A slim seven points separated the top three squads in the final team scores – UMass-Lowell topped the heap with 46 points, Haverford was second with 49 and Elizabethtown third with 53.

The Lowell scorers locked up fifth, sixth, seventh, 13th and 15th positions, while Haverford emerged victorious in second, eighth, ninth, 14th, and 16th place. Elizabethtown took third, 10th, 11th, 12th and 17th positions, leaving the Ephs at a distant fourth with 65 points.

Strong winds, low skies and spitting rain kept the venue quiet, the weather relegating team camps and the awards ceremony to the shelter of the high school gym.

The tenor of the afternoon, however, was cordial and energetic thanks to the guests in attendance. The Ephs were excited to host two comparatively far-flung teams from Pennsylvania – Haverford and Elizabethtown.

“We never get to see them before nationals,” captain Neal Hannan ’03 said. “They race in the Mideast Regional, not at New Englands, so we’re glad they came up. It’s always good to run against different people during the regular season, to get a little variation.”

Another variation for the race was the altered course size – the men used a shortened six-kilometer course rather than the standard eight-kilometer distance. Splicing a new route into the Mt. Greylock High School site repertoire, coach Peter Farwell left the start and finish unchanged but redirected the middle two miles.

Runners left the start, rounded the opening loop on the front soccer field, and turned up into the woods as they usually do. But rather than enter the second woods trail, the race cut a straight line out the side fields, traced two-thirds of a softball diamond, and picked up the second woods loop where it ordinarily lets out.

After winding the reverse of the latter woods section, harriers hooked right near the opening mile mark and topped their final hill, leaving only a brief downslope and a flat 1200 meters to the finish.

Despite the changes, there remained one constant – the victor. Karl Remsen ’03, captain of the Williams squad, covered the approximately 3.7 miles in 19:17, leading the pack. He was closely followed for much of the race by Andy Golden ’03, who wound up at fourth behind Haverford’s and Elizabethtown’s frontrunners in 19:34.

“I put in a surge a little after the first mile,” Remsen said. “There was a pack of about 15 guys up ahead, and I didn’t want people drafting off me once we hit the wind on the softball field. [Golden] was right on my shoulder, so we just moved through the front group all at once.

“We picked up maybe ten places in a few seconds, went from around fifteenth to fifth because the leaders were running in such a knot. Things strung out a bit after that, but the big shift happened before the two-mile mark.”

Shamus Brady ’04 topped the Ephs’ loosely-spaced tailing group, in which five Williams runners finished 13 seconds apart. Brady traded places with Bryan Dragon ’06 until the final mile, when Brady took over to claim the 18th spot in 20:09. Dragon followed at 20th in 20:11, mere steps ahead of Neal Holtshulte ’06, who landed at 22nd spot in 20:14.

Hannan, making his 2002 cross-country debut after an injury-plagued winter, spring, and summer, broke into the front seven as sixth man, holding down 25th place in 20:19. Matt Winkler ’04 entered the chute 28th in 20:22, pulling Brendan Dougherty ’06 in with him at 30th in 20:24.

“The idea today was to run together in three or four packs, competitive enough up front to be in the hunt at the finish but still holding back a little so that guys wouldn’t be burned out from racing every weekend,” Farwell said. “The distance today was a little shorter, the competition was new, but I didn’t want them to feel spent and completely exhausted. The general plan was to cruise the first mile-and-a-half or so, push the pace through the woods after the second mile, and relax again into cruising for a while.”

Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05 headed up the Ephs’s tertiary pack, securing 40th in 20:42. Colin Bruzewicz ’05 filled in a gap at 42nd in 20:51, only four places but nearly thirty seconds ahead of Adrian Martinez ’06 (46th, 21:16) and Thomas Brennan ’06 (48th, 21:17). Eric Daub ’04 (54th, 21:30) and Eli Lazarus ’04 (56th, 21:38) completed the second seven.

Next weekend, Williams will host Amherst and Wesleyan for the 2002 Little Three Championship, last held at home in 1999. The men will return to their accustomed eight-kilometer (five-mile) distance, as the Ephs will look to defend their long-unbroken title streak.