Men’s cross country races to 2nd place in national qualifier

Men’s cross country earned second place honors at the NCAA Div. III New England Regional Championship this weekend, as well as a guaranteed spot on the starting line at next week’s NCAA National Championships. The Ephs hosted the meet at Mount Greylock High School’s 8k course.

Consistently the Ephs’ best performer, Josephat Koima ’12 finished second individually in a tight race with Middlebury’s Michael Schmidt and Amherst’s Will Yochum. The trio formed the leader’s pack for most of the race. Schmidt navigated the 8k course in a quick 25:40.1 to become the 2010 Individual Champion despite Koima’s best efforts. Koima completed the course in 25:44.4.

A strong pack of runners, consisting of Ford Smith ’12, Anthony Raduazo ’12, Wade Davis ’13 and Scott Rodilitz ’13, formed the scoring squad along with Koima. Smith continued an explosive streak of races, working his way to the second spot on the team. His 26:14.6 performance was good for a 15th place finish overall. Raduazo crossed the line five seconds and five spots after Smith at 26:19.2. The third Eph and 20th individual to finish, Raduazo will be competing in his third NCAA National Championship race next week.

Davis and Rodilitz rounded out the team’s top five, finishing 30th in 26:30.3 and 34th in 26:39.4, respectively. Davis has run well all season, while Rodilitz has recovered admirably from a recent illness. The team has high hopes for both runners’ performances next weekend.

Rookie Henry Koster ’14 ran to a 50th place finish in 27:00.1. Seventh runner Mark Springel ’12 clocked in at 27:18.1, good for a 70th place finish.

“Everyone gave a strong effort in a talented and crowded field,” Head Coach Pete Farwell said. “Koima had his best race ever, pacing well off the leaders, staying smooth and finishing with a strong kick for runner-up of the region.” Farwell also praised his other runners’ performances, citing Raduazo’s performance as “his best race of the year, [which] sets him up well for a major national performance,” and Davis, Rodilitz, Koster and Springel as “the best pack … of all the teams.”

Despite the impressive team effort, the men were nudged out of the first place spot by MIT, who scored 93 points to Williams’ 101. Brandeis, the top-ranked Div. III team in the region, placed third, followed by Middlebury, Bates and Wesleyan.

“We are pleased with second, [just] narrowly losing to MIT, which recorded its best regional meet in many years,” Farwell said. “We had the same total team time as they did.” This result indicates the parity among top teams: MIT only came out on top because of a few stellar individual performances, while the men performed well regardless of their ranking within the team.

A second place finish is still enough for Williams to qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet, as the top two teams from the eight NCAA regions automatically qualify for the championship. Brandeis, Middlebury and Bates may have a chance to compete as well, since the remainder of the 32-team field is determined through at-large bids. Individually, the top seven finishers from non-Nationals teams qualify for the meet.

“[Our goal for Nationals] is to continue perfecting our race pacing and finding the final ‘gear shifts’ to pass in the fourth mile and switch to sprint form even when fatigued,” Farwell said, looking ahead to next weekend. “We want to have our best race of the year, with each [member] of the team giving to and counting on all the others. The large and dense field of talented runners makes it difficult to get out well but not too hard to think positively even when back in the pack, to move up and to be in contact with teammates.”

In order to succeed at NCAAs, the team will be focusing on putting finishing touches on a season of rigorous training over the course of this week. “We will be ‘tuning up,’ making sure each athlete is rested yet primed for a peak race and mentally focused to enjoy the race while running loose, yet fast,” Farwell said of the squad’s practice strategy.

The NCAA meet will be hosted by Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and will cap off the Ephs’ successful season. The race will begin at 11 a.m.

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