Men’s X-Country picks up first team win at Twin Brook Inv.

Men’s cross country surprised the field at the 2003 Twin Brook Cross Country Invitational on Saturday, scoring 60 points for their first team win of the season. Bates, who paired up with the University of Southern Maine to organize the meet, rallied 74 points for second, beating third-place MIT by a 2-point margin.

The 8k (5-mile) course at the Twin Brook Recreation Center in Cumberland begins with an uphill start, crests to a gradual right-hand descent around open fields and repeats the same loop to complete two miles.

The route then dives into the woods for the next two miles, rolling over steep rises and drops along a woodchipped trail, popping out at a wall of spectators and doubling back on itself for a partial reprise. The final mile leaves the woods trail and returns to the fields, snaking around a tree island before making a hairpin left turn and barreling to the chute for a downhill finish.

The Williams men geared their strategy toward the middle of the race – running relaxed and patient for the first two miles, pushing up through the third and fourth and either hammering home or riding their momentum to the close. Anticipating the tight turns and narrow passing lanes of the woods section, the Ephs’ forward pack established themselves comfortably near the front of the race before the two-mile mark. Neal Holtschulte ’06 and Matt Winkler ’04 moved up gradually, taking note of their competitive company. Stephen Wills ’07 and Bill Ference ’07 paired off just ahead of Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05 and Bryan Dragon ’06, while Eli Lazarus ’04 floated within contact. Captain Mitchell Baker ’04 and Thomas Brennan ’06 headed up the next group, keeping tabs on the general distribution of the Williams pack.

As the race began to string out, Holtschulte and Winkler tucked in behind the leaders. “There were three or four guys out front and Neal surged to get them,” Winkler said. “I didn’t go with him, but stayed pretty close and had a decent kick at the end to pick up a few more places. Neal ended up winning the whole thing.”

Sure enough, Holtschulte blasted away from the other contenders in the final 1000 meters to earn the first cross country individual win of his collegiate career in a time of 26:28. Winkler arrived seventh in 26:57. Wills, Dragon and VanVolkenburgh rounded out the Ephs’s scoring five in quick succession, entering the chute 16th, 17th and 19th in 27:21, 27:27 and 27:30, respectively. Ference clocked 27:38 for 22nd.

“Bill and I were in limbo in the middle of the race,” Wills said. “We’d stopped passing people. Then all of a sudden I saw Sam come flying by on the side and I was so glad to see him – it was pretty funny. Bryan was right there, too, so we all took off.” Also in the hunt was Chris Ellis-Ferrara ’07. While the Ephs might have been all too aware of the gaps among them, spectators simply saw a 5-man Williams barrage. With Ellis-Ferrara at 25th in 27:45, the Ephs had stacked seven harriers ahead of any other team’s fifth scorer.

Back in the woods, Baker and Brennan tried to pick up Lazarus, who was still feeling the effects of an anaphylactic reaction to a yellow jacket bee sting he received last Tuesday. Adrian Martinez ’06 went with them instead, with Andy Stevenson ’07 and Colin Carroll ’07 in close pursuit. Baker crossed the line 43rd in 28:33, Brennan 52nd in 28:43, Martinez 61st in 28:54, Stevenson 64th in 28:55 and Carroll 70th in 29:08.

Lazarus finally hung onto Chris Upjohn ’07, captain Shamus Brady ‘04 – on the mend after a hamstring injury – and Matt Ressenger ’05. The four collected 74th, 76th, 77th and 78th, all around 29:15.

“This is the best team day we’ve had in a long time,” Baker said on the bus ride home. “Especially this early in the season – usually we’re sort of off the map until later. It’s a good confidence builder, certainly, to get a win under our belts, enjoy it, and then go back to work.”

“The first-years ran some impressive races today,” Head Coach Pete Farwell said in his wrap-up to the team. “We wanted to come out feeling good, have that focus of racing a little harder than we did last week, and I think we did that really well. We had a lot of guys running together, working together, moving up through the race – all the things we wanted to work on at this meet.”

Next weekend, the men will welcome their alumni back to the Purple Valley for the 2003 Aluminum Bowl at Mt. Greylock High School. In the meantime, Farwell will be readying his crew for the Div. I New England Championship at Franklin Park in Boston on Oct. 10.