Men’s X-Country fourth at Purple Valley Classic

Men’s Cross Country hosted the 2003 Purple Valley Classic on its home course behind Mt. Greylock High School last Saturday. The meet attracted nine visiting schools, including Messiah College, which motored to Williamstown all the way from Grantham, Penn. SUNY Geneseo won the men’s varsity 8k (5-mile) race with a tight score of 30 points, bumping Messiah to second with 64. Southern Connecticut State snagged third over fourth-place Williams by a slim two-point margin, 92 to 94. RIT collected fifth with 120.

Though the morning’s overcast skies burned off sometime around mid-day, the humidity stayed around, lending a sticky start to the varsity 8k. The pace for the opening mile around the front soccer fields and first woods loop was conservative, bunching the 100-plus harriers into a jostling mass of spikes and elbows. Despite the rainstorms that swept through town late last week, footing was firm and surprisingly dry. Only the back section of the second woods loop – which underwent complete reconstruction in August – was waterlogged and boggy. The men enjoyed the privilege of racing first and therefore had the course at its best, trampling mud into mire for the women’s 5k.

Neal Holtschulte ’06 and Matt Winkler ’04 made the charge for the Ephs, with Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05, feeling friskier than he had expected, cruising a stride off their heels. Moving with the trio was esteemed alumnus Jeremie Perry ’96, the NCAA Div. III cross-country individual national champion in 1994 and a key member of the Williams squads that won back-to-back national titles in 1994 and 1995. Perry, who is now an Olympic hopeful in the modern pentathlon (running, swimming, shooting, fencing and horseback riding), will rejoin the team for a week of training and story-telling leading up to the Aluminum Bowl alumni race on October 4.

Bryan Dragon ’06 pushed for the front as well, leapfrogging nearly twenty places in the third and fourth miles. Eric Daub ’04 executed his personal race-plan as precisely as always, building through the fourth mile, where he caught Eli Lazarus ’04 and pulled his teammate out of slow-footed fatigue. Daub felt himself falter in the fifth mile but came through as the Eph’s fifth man on the day. Holtschulte hammered to fifth place in 27:12, leading in Winkler at 12th in 27:40 and VanVolkenburgh 14th in 27:47. Dragon arrived 22nd in 28:09. On the far side of a dense string of runners, Daub and Lazarus finished together in 29:05 at 41st and 42nd, respectively. Adrian Martinez ’06 rounded out Williams’ front seven at 56th in 29:33.

Head Coach Pete Farwell held captain Mitchell Baker ’04 out of the line-up out of concern for Baker’s ankles, given the rough condition of the course. Baker cheered his crew from various vantage points, waking them up and urging them on. After the awards ceremony he laced his shoes and took off for a workout of his own. He will race next weekend at the Cumberland Invitational in Cumberland, Maine.

The men’s JV 5k was a first-year talent show, with impressive performances across the Williams roll. The Ephs dismantled the assembled field with 18 points (15 is a perfect score), saddling second-place Middlebury with 49 points, Messiah with 84 and RPI with 115.

Stephen Wills ’07 pulled away from the other leaders, including Bill Ference ’07, in the second mile, closing with an unrelenting press and kicking alone for the win in 16:40. Ference glided out of the woods and around the final 1000 meters-second place all to himself, to finish in 17:18.

Chris Ellis-Ferrara ’07 arrived third in 17:32 and Colin Carroll ’07 outran Middlebury’s Neal Dignum in a flying sprint to sweep fourth in 17:38. Andy Stevenson ’07 wrapped up the Ephs’ scoring five at eighth in 17:55, while Chris Upjohn ’07 (18:02) and Doug Hammond ’07 (18:13) completed the top seven at 11th and 15th, respectively.

Next week, the team heads north to the southern coast of Maine for the first annual Cumberland Invite, hosted by Bates and the University of Southern Maine. The wood-chipped course snakes around the grounds of the Twin Brooks Recreation Center, and will be the venue for the 2003 NCAA Div. III New England Regional Championship on Nov. 15.

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