On Nov. 21, men’s cross country traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to compete in the National Championships. One week after a dominating victory at the New England Regional Championships, the Ephs toed the line at nationals hoping to improve on last year’s third place finish and ready to make a bid for the national title.
Behind a third place individual finish by Edgar Kosgey ’10 the Williams men used inspired races from all seven runners to ultimately finish second overall, losing only to perennial powerhouse North Central College of Illinois. Second place is the highest national finish for the men’s team since Williams ran to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
After beginning the season ranked fourth in the national polls, Williams fell as low as 15th three weeks before Nationals, a slight that added fuel to their fire. North Central, the pre-race favorite considered among the best all time in Div. III, lived up to the hype and led the race from the gun. Williams got out more conservatively but still established a strong team position in the early going despite Mark Springel ’12 being knocked over and spiked in the first 200 meters.
However, things quickly took a turn for the worse for Williams when Anthony Raduazo ’12, suffering from a respiratory ailment, was forced to drop out of the race before the two mile mark. At this point Jeff Perlis ’10, co-captains Connor Kamm ’10 and Corey Watts ’10, J. Koima ’12 and Springel still pressed forward behind Kosgey, keeping Williams in the hunt for one of the top team spots.
As the field strung out in the second half of the race, the Williams men continued to improve their positions with Koima and Springel making especially strong moves. Unfortunately, bad luck struck the Ephs again when Perlis re-injured his Achilles tendon and collapsed in the final mile of the race. Now with only the minimum five scorers left, a dream season seemed on the verge of slipping away for the Ephs.
Crossing the line third overall, Kosgey capped a tremendous career with the highest individual finish for Williams since Neal Holtschulte ’06 won in 2005. Following closely behind Kosgey was Koima in 36th place overall, only .01 seconds behind the final All-American spot, and less than 15 seconds ahead of Kamm and Watts. Running together for much of the final mile, Kamm and Watts finished only a second apart in 45th and 47th places respectively. Improbably enough, after finishing no higher than seventh on the team all year, the bloodied Springel ran the best race of his life to finish fifth for Williams in 113th place.
Immediately following the race the Ephs anxiously awaited the official results in the medical tent where Perlis, Springel and Raduazo were receiving medical attention. Upon hearing that Williams had placed second, a somber mood gave way to euphoria as coaches, competitors and fans joined in celebration of a result that seemed too good to be true.
“Last June we challenged [everyone] to improve, with smart and diligent summer preparation for the season,” said Head Coach Pete Farwell. “Each athlete had an impact on our eventual meet successes, and the total support of everyone made it possible for the top seven in this meet to compete so well on the national stage.”
While North Central finished first with 50 points, Williams’ final tally of 181 points placed the men narrowly ahead of Allegheny (195) and NYU (224) in third and fourth places respectively. Ricky Flynn of Lynchburg College was the individual champion as defending champion Peter Kosgei of Hamilton struggled to a 43rd place finish while suffering from the swine flu.