Men’s cross country Little Three champs 15 years running

Men’s cross-country won its 15th-consecutive Little Three Championship after triumphing Saturday on the waterlogged trails of their home course at Mt. Greylock High School. Williams stacked five harriers in the top 10 to run away with a 22-point total. Wesleyan beat Amherst for second, 48 to 60.

Sloppy conditions made for true-grit cross-country – trail-wide standing puddles, shoe-sucking mud, clay-slick downhills and periods of steady rain saw racers into the chute spattered, streaked and soaked to the skin.

Spectators in parkas and rain shells didn’t stray far from the central cloverleaf section of the course, screaming at top volume whenever the men came into view and quieting again once the last jerseys ducked out of sight.

The race opened with a jittery opening mile, passing the first split in a reluctant six minutes. Amherst dispatched its leaders to the front with immediacy and determination, but grew nervous when Williams, in no hurry to take over, pulled up on their shoulders and let the Jeffs set the pace. The second mile quickened some, but most of the assembled field didn’t string out until the backwoods late in the third mile.

Captain Karl Remsen ’03 and Andy Golden ’03 began stepping up the intensity at mile four, hoping to break the pack of Wesleyan and Amherst men still in the hunt and with eyes set on upset.

“They were still with us at the top of the hill,” Remsen said, referring to the last crest of the course from which runners have approximately 1300 meters to cover before they hit the tape. “I put in a hard surge for about 800 meters and looked back. I didn’t want to see anyone other than Andy, and there he was.”

“I saw Karl give me a look back like, ‘Okay, Andy, start running,’” Golden said. “I caught up to him and we came in together. We just wanted to be sure we got one-two.” At 27:00-flat, Remsen and Golden shared the title of Little Three Individual Champion.

Wesleyan’s Wes Fuhrman was the next finisher at 27:06, just nipping Bryan Dragon ’06 who came in fourth with a 27:07.

Neal Holtschulte ’06 and Shamus Brady ’04 could not chase down Stanton Geddes of Amherst, who claimed fifth in 27:09 to Holtschulte’s sixth (27:13) and Brady’s ninth (27:44).

Matt Winkler ’04, captain Neal Hannan ’03 and Colin Bruzewicz ’05 clocked out in quick succession, nailing a loosely tripled 11th, 12th and 13th place finishes in 27:44, 27:52 and 27:55. Hannan’s place ensured that Williams’s top seven had all finished among the top 12, and within a 52-second spread over five miles.

Close behind Bruzewicz, Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05 collected 17th in 28:02. VanVolkenburgh, negotiating the sodden course in racing flats (shoes without traction spikes in the soles), slipped and fell twice in the race, once in the beginning and again in the final loop of the outer soccer field.

“When I fell the second time I lost a lot of momentum,” VanVolkenburgh said on Sunday. “I came down the last hill and was feeling really good, but when I slipped I gave up too much ground.”

Brendan Dougherty ’06, who finished with VanVolkenburgh at 18th in 28:03, also fought through the latent obstacles of the front soccer loop. Dougherty lost one of his shoes in the first 800 meters of the race when one of the mud patches sucked the spikes off his foot. Rather than run the remaining four-and-a-half miles with a lopsided gait and risk destroying his frozen toes, Dougherty stopped, retied his shoe, and tore off in pursuit of his teammates.

“I had to work way too hard to catch up to people,” Dougherty said. “The first mile wasn’t that fast, so I got back to where I’d been before my shoe came off, but I was hurting by the fourth mile.”

After Dougherty, Eli Lazarus ’04 ended up on the far side of an Amherst-Wesleyan pack more than five deep when he waited too long to make a move and then ran out of time in which to reel any of them in. Lazarus finished 29th in 28:35.

Adrian Martinez ’06 (32nd, 28:55), Eric Daub ’04 (33rd, 29:07), Ross Smith ’05 (34th, 29:07) and Thomas Brennan ’06 (35th, 29:08) next arrived in fast order, closing out the Ephs’ top 15 and leading in Matt Resseger ’05 at 37th in 29:26.

Yariv Pierce ’06 and Steve Acton ’06 contributed two of the day’s most team-inspiring races, both coming home on strong finishing kicks and setting new home-territory personal bests. Captains awarded Acton with team mascot T. Bear for the week.

Next Saturday the men return to Tufts University’s “farm course” in Grafton, Mass., for the 2002 NESCAC Championships, where Williams will look to reclaim the title from defending champion Bowdoin. But Williams won’t be alone – the Bates Bobcats, led by all-American Justin Easter, will also be gunning for the top step on the NESCAC podium.