Men’s cross country second at NESCACs

Men’s cross country finished second behind Bowdoin at the 2002 NESCAC Championship held on Saturday at Tufts University’s “farm course.” Bowdoin entered the race as the defending NESCAC champion and retained that title, stacking four members of their five scorers among the first 10 finishers.

Captain Karl Remsen ’03 and fellow veteran Andy Golden ’03 were the only Williams harriers to land in the top 10 – Remsen third in 25:29.33 and Golden sixth in 25:55.49. The first 15 places carried all-NESCAC distinction.

Saturday broke bright and cold despite forecasts earlier in the week that had called for inclement weather. At midday, a bank thermometer in Grafton read 36 degrees, but the sun was warm enough to at least dull the chill for spectators on the sidelines. Most runners stepped to the starting line in hats, gloves and long-sleeves, knowing that they could always shed what they didn’t need once the race was underway.

Much of the excitement of the NESCAC meet stems from its singularity as the one race in which all 11 conference schools compete. At Grafton, however, the main attraction was Trinity’s ace senior Ryan Bak, who absolutely ran away with the first large venue of the New England cross-country post-season, crushing the field.

Remsen and Justin Easter of Bates were with Bak for the first half-mile of the 8K (five-mile) race, and quickly gapped the initial stampede.

“Easter and I were with him through the first loop, but he was already cranking,” Remsen said of Bak. “At one point Easter made a little surge to catch up with him, hung there for a couple seconds, and then drifted right back. There was no way we were going to touch him. We didn’t even see him again after the first mile.”

Indeed, Bak put more than 50 seconds on Easter and Remsen, destroying the former course record of 25:30 by nearly a full minute. When someone asked if Bak had surpassed the old mark, Remsen said with a laugh, “I got the old course record. And I was third.”

Twenty seconds behind Remsen, the battle for the NESCAC title was taking shape. Golden found himself among all five of Bowdoin’s scorers, while the rest of Williams’ pack was still working its way through the pursuing ranks.

Golden pulled away from everyone but the Polar Bears’ Pat Vardaro and Trinity’s number-two man Jim Emord. Unfortunately, Remsen and Golden were not enough to stem the black-and-white tide – the Bears entered the chute fourth, eighth, ninth, 10th, and 16th, scoring an uncontested 48 points to Williams’ 77.

Neal Holtshulte ’06 and Matt Winkler ’04 pulled in at 18th and 19th with times of 26:31.55 and 26:32.48, respectively. Holtshulte worked his way forward from a conservative start that split him through the opening mile around 5:30.

“He came flying by me after two-and-a-half miles,” said Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05, who finished sixth for the team at 49th in 27:21.72. “I started to go with him but realized there was no way I was going to keep up. He just hit the three-mile mark and went nuts, passing everybody.” Among those he passed included classmate Bryan Dragon ’06, who came through as Williams’ fifth scorer at 31st in 26:51.91.

Captain Neal Hannan ’03 made it through four miles of the course before flaring pain in his Achilles tendon caused him to pull out. “I was with Sammy Van-V at the four-mile mark and really overly aware of my Achilles,” Hannan said. “The irritation made me skittish. I hated to do it, but dropping was the right move – at this point there’s too little season left to mess around with a reinjury.”

After Van Volkenburgh, Shamus Brady ’04, Colin Bruzewicz ’05 and Brendan Dougherty ’06 arrived in close succession. Brady’s left leg began to tingle in the last mile and shake uncontrollably 150 meters from the finish, leaving him shaken up but physically fine after the race. He placed 53rd in 27:26.64.

Bruzewicz and Dougherty hammered the downhill second and fourth miles of the course to collect 56th and 61st in 27:29.00 and 27:32.02, respectively. Adrian Martinez ’06 arrived in 79th in 27:59.84.

“Everybody’s times were fast today, and we had some great finishes,” head coach Peter Farwell said as he spoke with his crew on the bus ride back to Williamstown. “Bowdoin went with their strategy of putting all five of their guys in the top 15 right off the bat, a lot like they did last year.

“We worked up from farther back in the pack, and that’s what we’d talked about doing. We’re building momentum, and there are still a lot of good things to come.”

Williams will host the 2002 ECAC Championships at the Ephs’s home course at Mt. Greylock High School next week. The event will draw teams from all over the northeast for a final five-mile showdown before the Div. III New England Regionals at Westfield on Nov. 16.