Men’s cross country pushes to second place at Nationals

Members of the men’s cross country team hold their trophy after the completion of the race. Photo Courtesy of Sports Info
Members of the men’s cross country team hold their trophy after the completion of the race. Photo Courtesy of Sports Info

On Nov. 21, men’s cross country put a whole season’s worth of work to the test at the NCAA Div. III Championships at University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. The men came into the meet ranked No. 2 in the nation by the USTFCCCA since their victory at the Little Three Championships but had only competed against one other top-five team this season: No. 4 Amherst.

Until the championship contest, the men could only guess how they would match head-to-head with No. 1 University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, No. 3 North Central and No. 5 St. Olaf. North Central has been the most dominant team in Div. III in recent memory, winning four of the past six NCAA Div. III Championships.

In an amazing team showing, the men finished second by a score of 135 to 144 to Eau Claire. No. 6 Geneseo State beat its seed to finish third with 209 points, just two ahead of fourth-place St. Olaf. The men’s silver medal marks their best performance at a national championship since 1995.

While a big winter storm descended upon parts of the Midwest, Winneconne, Wisc., saw clear weather. At race time, the temperature was a crisp 30 degrees but there was no wind to speak of. The 8k race got out quickly over the flat, firm surface at Lake Breeze Golf Club. Ian LaMere of University of Wisconsin at Platteville took the lead from the start and never looked back. Halfway through the race, LaMere had already built up a lead of over 100 meters. He took home the individual title in 23:35, a full 40 seconds ahead of the next finisher.

Behind LaMere, the chase pack featured the best runners from the top five ranked teams: Josh Thorson of Eau Claire, tri-captain Bijan Mazaheri ’16, Zack Plank of North Central, Mohamed Hussein of Amherst and Jake Campbell of St. Olaf. With one kilometer to go, Thorson and Mazaheri pulled away from the rest and battled it out to the finish. When it came down to the kick, Thorson came through as the runner-up in 24:15 and Mazaheri took third in 24:21. Plank would take fourth in 24:26 and Campbell finished fifth in 24:31.

With the top teams each placing runners in the top five, the National Title would be won by the team with the best depth. Depth had been the Ephs’ strength all season. Ben Decker ’18, Peter Hale ’17 and tri-captain Todd Ford ’16 grouped up together from the start with Griffin Colaizzi ’18, Noah Williams ’17 and Kyle Kistinger ’16 not far behind. When Decker and Colaizzi began to fall back after the first five kilometers, Williams was there to fill in. He went from 81st at the four-kilometer mark to finish 40th overall as the Ephs’ fourth man.

Hale moved all the way up to 16th place to finish as the Ephs’ second All-American in 24:42. He has run faster and faster every week since the NESCAC Championships, lowering his personal best 8k time in each race.

Ford ended his cross country career on a high note with a 39th place finish in 25:06. Williams was right behind in 40th place, also running 25:06.

Colaizzi was the Ephs’ fifth man and took 91st in 25:29. Decker was 105th in 25:33 and Kistinger finished 188th in 25:58. Despite fading a bit during the race, Colaizzi and Decker were the highest finishing fifth- and sixth-man pair of any team in the field.

The Ephs’ top seven have been training since May with the NCAA Div. III Championships in mind. At the meet, they saw their hard work come to fruition. Together with the women’s victory, this was the best-ever combined national championship finish for Head Coach Peter Farwell and the Williams program. The Ephs are the first cross country program since 1990 to place both men’s and women’s teams in the top two at the NCAA Div. III Championships.

The team is enthusiastic about its succesful season. “Men’s cross country had a grand finale at the meet they were pointing for since May, moving every day forward with awesome training, all over the country, wherever they were for the summer,” Head Coach Peter Farwell ’73 said. “Coaches and team alike are thrilled with the season and the men’s ability to accomplish such high training and pulling off so many victories [along with] this runner-up [finish at] Nationals.”

With the conclusion of the season comes the departure of graduating seniors Ford, Mazaheri, Kistinger, Daquan Daly ’16, Greg Ferland ’16, Greg Kehne ’16, Michael Navarrete ’16, Nicholas Nosche ’16, Matt Rock ’16 and tri-captain Matt Tarduno ’16.

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