Last Saturday, men’s cross country was victorious for the 26th straight time at the Little Three Championships at Wesleyan’s 8k course. Despite the more-than-favorable odds going into the meet, this victory was far tougher than expected. Williams took first at the meet with 25 points, while Amherst took second with 37 and Wesleyan took third with 67 points overall. On Oct. 12, the men traveled to Westfield State for the James Earley Invitational, where they took third behind Siena in second and host Westfield State in first.
Tri-captain Chris Lee ’14 had a great performance, coming in as the individual winner of the race for the second year in a row with a time of 25:54.9. Bijan Mazaheri ’16 had a strong race and was up with Lee near the end, but two Amherst runners at the very end ultimately edged him out, as he finished with a time of 26:00.4.
The real heroes of this race were the four who clinched the win for Williams in a climactic finish, including Todd Ford ’16 and David Folsom ’17, who finished with times of 26:14.1 and 26:14.7, respectively.
“[Ford and Folsom] have been training really well, really consistently, and I’m excited to see how they perform in two weeks at NESCACs,” tri-captain Peter Drews ’14 said. Tri-captain Max LaBerge ’14 took fifth for Williams in 26:30.7, and Drews grabbed sixth in 26:37.9. Their performances were especially impressive given how a majority of the race was run. Right from the start of the race and through the first three miles, a pack of about eight Amherst runners dominated the front of the field, surrounding Lee and Mazaheri.
“Nine out of 10, even 25 out of 26 times, Williams cross country should beat Amherst and Wesleyan. But there’s always that one outlier, and this year, three miles into the race it looked like it was going to be an upset,” Lee said.
“It looked like Amherst was racing as if this was Nationals,” Drews said. It was only in the later part of the race that the Williams men summoned what they needed to maintain their winning streak, leading to a dramatic finish.
“It was our strategy to move in that fourth mile, and we did, as Ford and Folsom closed on the pack and passed a couple [of runners],” Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73 said.
“It wasn’t until the final 800 [meters], and even into the final 300[-meter] straightaway, that Williams, Max LaBerge in particular, was able to pull even and pass enough people to give us a win.” Drews said.
While a winning streak doesn’t automatically mean a win every year, the pressure of maintaining such a record of excellence was a factor in Williams’ victory. “I think people harnessed the fear of losing to Amherst and breaking the 26-year winning streak,” Lee said. “Some of the guys who don’t usually score dug deep to pass their opponents … because that was what we needed.”
“I was incredibly relieved to hear we had won,” Drews said. “No senior wants to be on the team when our streak comes to an end.”
At the James Earley Invitational at Westfield State on Oct. 12, Williams took third out of the 35 competing teams. The men were resting 12 of their top competitors, but the result showed the depth of the squad.
LaBerge was fourth overall and first for Williams with an 8k time of 26:20. Kieran Scannell ’17 had an impressive race to finish in 26:52 for 18th place, second for Williams, with Nigel Bates ’17 close behind in 26:53 and third for the men.
This Saturday, the men host the Plansky Invitational, held at the home course and open to Williams alumni. It will be the last race of the season for many members of the team, as championship season begins with NESCACs at Conn. College on Nov. 2.