Men’s cross country comes in second

Men’s cross-country hosted the 2002 ECAC Div. III Championship on Saturday, welcoming more than 40 teams to the Ephs’ home course at Mt. Greylock High School. The November cold-snap of the previous two weeks eased into temperatures in the 60’s with partly cloudy skies, perfect race-day weather for the 8K (five-mile) event.

Head Coach Peter Farwell and a crew of assistants from the men’s and women’s teams spent Thursday and Friday on the course, preparing the trails to accommodate two stampedes of nearly 300 harriers each. Farwell and his work parties raked the course clear of leaves, pounded stakes and roped flags, painted directional arrows at the major turns, and filled the soggy sections of the back woods loop with wood chips.

With his front flight resting for the NCAA Div. III New England Regional next weekend, Farwell suited up his second seven for the last race of the fall season. Friday evening the group drove out to the course to run a couple of easy miles and get in a set of strides in the gathering dusk.

“The course looks really good,” Colin Bruzewicz ’05 said, surveying his home turf on Friday. “The front soccer-field loop is still wet, but it’s always a little waterlogged. That, and there’s a lot of mud on the back hill, which will make the downhill at the start of the first woods loop pretty slick. We’ll all be wearing spikes tomorrow, anyway, so footing shouldn’t be a problem.”

“You come out here and the flags are out, the lines are painted, everything’s ready, but the place is so empty and quiet,” Eli Lazarus ’04 said after the squad’s cool down on Friday night. “You know that tomorrow the course is going to be covered with people – spectators wandering all over the place, camps of schools, runners warming up, bright colors everywhere – but right now it’s just you and the six guys you’ll go to the line with.”

The calm before the storm broke bright and early Saturday morning, with fleets of charters and college vans in the high school parking lot, and captain Neal Hannan ’03 queuing up rock-and-roll on the PA system near the finish line.

“I love this race,” Hannan said as he cut into tracks of Van Halen to make coaches announcements. “It’s so great to watch the second seven have their day, and to have it at home. It’s even better because it’s running smoothly.”

Williams’s pack came out with their eyes on the prize, all seven pacing through the opening mile among the top 40 runners and within striking distance of the leaders. Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05 and captain Chris Garvin ’03, racing again for the first time since injury yanked him from the lineup in September, began their forward press in the third mile, moving up the ranks as they traced the outer baseball field.

Brendan Dougherty ’06 stayed on their heels, with Bruzewicz and Lazarus in hot pursuit a few seconds back. Ross Smith ’05 and Adrian Martinez ’06 shifted momentum at the baseball field as well.

By the middle of the fourth mile, VanVolkenburgh and Garvin had broken into the front echelon, dropping those who had misjudged the course and gone out too hard. Dougherty slowed some to fight off the needling beginnings of a cramp, and Bruzewicz kept up his steady turnover. Lazarus faded out of contact until Smith picked him up just before the four-mile split.

VanVolkenburgh sparred with on-coming kickers in the closing 800 meters of the race to claim sixth place in 27:19.5, pulling in Garvin at 11th in 27:32.8. Both earned all-ECAC distinction, which went to the first 15 finishers overall.

Dougherty arrived in 24th in 28:00.3, and Bruzewicz finished 10 spots later at 34th in 28:11.1. Smith, who landed as Williams’s scoring fifth, crossed the line 48th in 28:30.3, seven seconds ahead of Lazarus at 53rd in 28:37.3. Martinez closed out the Ephs’s contingent at 64th in 28:52.0.

“Once we all found each other after we came out of the chute, we knew we still had a shot at the title,” Garvin said. “We figured we needed at least two in the top 15, which we had, and the rest of our scoring five somewhere in the top forty. Given what the other guys were saying, it was up in the air among Tufts, Keene State and us.”

Colby, however, managed to slip underneath the radar. The White Mules stacked three scorers into the all-ECAC lineup and placed their fourth and fifth runners, the 22nd and 38th finishers, respectively, gapping Williams in the final standings 80 points to 123. Keene State ended up in a close third with 127, and Tufts fourth with 134.

“Second place is the highest finish we’ve ever had at this meet,” Farwell said after the awards presentation. “The last time we were second was in 1999, when Tufts ran a couple guys from their varsity. And today Colby ran their A-team, but we took a good shot at the title the way we had talked about doing all season.”

Next week Williams will take their varsity to the NCAA Div. III New England Regional Championship at Westfield State College in Westfield, Mass. Only the top four teams will earn a berth on the line at the national championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., on Nov. 23.