Men’s, women’s XC compete at NCAAs

Both men’s and women’s cross country competed at the NCAA national championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., on Nov. 17. The men, who were leading by a 36th place finish from Edgar Kosgey ’10, finished in 10th place with 399 points. The men were the top New England team, edging out arch-rival Amherst, who finished in 12th place only four points behind the Ephs. The women were led by Olga Kondratjeva ’10, who captured 58th place. The Ephs finished 14th overall and were the third NESCAC team with 390 points behind team champion Amherst.

Months of solid training had prepared both the men and women to race against the best in the nation, and they set their goals accordingly.

The women’s 6K course was flatter than most of the Ephs’ regular training runs and would compel them to utilize fast turnover and a smooth stride rather than their mountain-climbing strength. When the starting gun fired at 11 a.m., the women bounded off the line a little too conservatively. To make matters more complicated, a few runners fell down around the Ephs during the first 800 meters, preventing them from attaining a good position in the pack.

Despite the early-race mishaps, the Ephs recovered and moved up significantly. Lissy Robie ’08 led the Ephs for much of the race, gritting out a gutsy race and never forgetting her goals in the herd of national caliber runners. Kondratjeva gained tens of places over the course of the event, eventually passing Robie and sprinting to the finish in a time of 22:36. Robie was behind by only 30 seconds but nearly 30 places in 95th. Lauren Philbrook ’09 finished right on Robie’s heels in the same time and just two places back. Liz Gleason ’08 continued her season-long improvement by finishing 146th in 23:17. She was followed by Moira Yoe ’10 in 161st, Rachel Asher ’09 (179th in 23:28) and Elly Teitsworth ’10, who began the race at the back of the field and used her characteristic finishing kick to secure 182nd place in 23:29.

Despite some of the struggles they encountered the women were proud of their race. “Things didn’t quite go our way,” Head Coach Pete Farwell said. “Rachel had a bit of an off day, and Olga’s still a novice at cross country, but we still finished in the top half of this national-caliber field.”

When the men’s race began at 1 p.m., the snowfall had stopped and temperatures had risen into the 40s. The Williams harriers sprung off the line and established themselves in excellent position in the middle of the pack. Although the course did not play to the hill running strengths of the Ephs, they had trained on a golf course over the past two weeks and were fully prepared to increase their turnover and leg speed to meet the challenge at hand.

Kosgey ran most of the race in the top 35, running in his smooth and relaxed form. A pack of competitors partially overwhelmed him in the last half-mile, preventing him from attaining All-American. Co-captain Corey Levin ’08 began the race not too far behind Kosgey, but slowly gave up ground during the middle miles of the race. He dug deep during the finishing stretch and completed a gutsy race with a time of 25:47, good for 92nd place. Brendan Christian ’09 also got the ending he deserved to this tough season, finishing in a solid time of 25:55 for 120th place. Morgan Seybert ’08 had his best performance of the season, capturing 140th in 26:02. Corey Watts ’10 was only two seconds behind in 150th, and Connor Kamm ’10 was 184th in 26:16. Rounding out the Williams squad with a fearless performance was co-captain Grant Burgess ’08 in 26:44.

“Nationals is a big step up from New Englands,” Farwell said. “Our team isn’t quite as battle-sharpened as the Midwestern teams, which attend highly competitive meets throughout the season.” Nevertheless, the Ephs captured a top ten finish, an impressive feat at the NCAA championships.

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