Men’s cross country once again came out on top of a highly competitive field at the ECAC Div. III Cross Country Championship on Saturday. The Ephs claimed their sixth consecutive ECAC title in Bristol, R.I., defeating second-place finisher Middlebury by a margin of 29 points.
Jack Fitzhenry ’12 was the first Eph to navigate the tough 8k course at Colt State Park, racing to a fifth-place finish in 26:12.30 and leading the Ephs to a decisive victory. In an impressive rookie performance, Max LaBerge ’14 crossed the finish line at 26:45.66, good for 16th place overall, just one place behind the cutoff for All-ECAC honors, which go to the top 15 finishers. Meanwhile, co-captain Dan Franck ’11 ran 26:33.27 to cap off a great last season, securing an 11th place overall finish.
Peter Drews ’14 was the fourth Eph to finish, closing with a 27:09.02 result. Drews ran well despite suffering an injury to his Achilles tendon earlier this season. Co-captain Jason Rapaport ’11 was the final scoring runner for the men, racing to 32nd less than one second behind Drews at 27:09.92.
“It was an excellent team race,” Head Coach Pete Farwell said. “Dan Franck put together his best-ever cross country race in his finale as senior captain. He moved up at least 30 places in the race and had a strong kick. Max LaBerge also kicked well. Peter Drews showed his ability coming back from four weeks without a race … with Jason Rapaport right with him in 32nd. Jason passed over 45 guys in the final three and a half miles.”
Tommy Gaidus ’13 and Chris Cogswell ’14 rounded out the race with 67th and 74th place finishes.
Fitzhenry, Drews, Cogwell, LaBerge, Franck, Gaidus and Rapaport, the team’s ‘second seven,’ scored 94 points altogether and clocked an average time of 26:46, capturing an unambiguous victory over NESCAC rivals Middlebury, Bates and Amherst. Middlebury earned a podium spot with 123 points, while Amherst only managed a sixth place finish behind Johnson & Wales, Tufts and Bates.
The men’s win over Middlebury was especially sweet, as the Panthers outraced the Ephs at the NESCAC championship the previous Saturday. Since the second seven raced at the ECAC Championship, the disappointment of the previous week was not repaid in full, yet this result demonstrates the depth of talent on the Williams team.
“We have lots of talented, hard-working guys,” Farwell said. “This group could be top seven on most of the teams in this meet and maybe on all but eight Div. III teams in New England.”
This Saturday, the top seven runners from the NESCAC race are slotted to run at NCAA qualifiers. The team will be composed of last week’s scoring runners, which includes Josephat Koima ’12, Wade Davis ’13, Ford Smith ’12, Anthony Raduazo ’12 and Mark Springel ’12. The remaining two spots will be filled by Scott Rodilitz ’13, coming off an illness, and Henry Koster ’14, whom Farwell called “last week’s surprise.”
The team will host the New England Regional Championships meet at its home course at Mount Greylock High School. With high hopes of outdoing last year’s second place finish at the NCAA championships, the Ephs look to run well on Saturday and set themselves up for success in two weeks.
“The group is really getting in step with each other, grouping up better than [they have] all season,” Farwell said. “They will be inspired by the peaking performance of the ECAC team and look for a similar ‘runner’s high’ on Saturday at home. We should get out solidly, move up in the third and fourth miles and have something in the tank for the last mile to give us many All-Region racers and a top team place.”