The men’s cross country team added to its Little Three winning streak Saturday at Wesleyan with its 29th consecutive title over Amherst and Wesleyan.
Although Williams, currently ranked third nationally in the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, entered this meet as the favorite, the team faced tough competition from Amherst — currently ranked eighth nationally — and Wesleyan. In a very tight race in which the end result did not become obvious until the last mile, Williams eventually pulled away with a score of 25 points to Amherst’s 42. Wesleyan was third, with 74 points.
The 8k went out quickly for a lead pack of four runners, including the Ephs’ Ben Decker ’18 and tri-captain Peter Hale ’17. Behind them, a sizeable chase pack formed. Up front, Decker, Hale and Amherst junior Mohamed Hussein, a several-time All-American and the race’s presumptive favorite, traded blows for nearly the entire race.
Going up the final hill, Hale moved ahead, and held off Hussein in the last stretch with a big kick, running 25:08 to Hussein’s 25:13. Decker finished next in 25:24, putting two Eph runners on the podium.
Behind the leaders, the team score remained in doubt late in the race, with the chase pack of five runners from Williams and 10 from Amherst holding together through three miles.
Showcasing their depth, the Ephs, led by Liam Simpson ‘18, were the ones to make the decisive surge. Simpson finished in sixth overall in 25:48, followed by Griffin Colaizzi ’18, who finished in seventh in 26:00. Battling and eventually overcoming Amherst runners, tri-captain Noah Williams ’17 came in eighth in 26:03, closely followed by Austin Anderson ’19, who ran 26:04 for ninth place. Zeke Cohen ’19 rounded out the scoring for the Ephs, finishing in 11th place in 26:06.
Beyond the top runners, a pack of first-years ran extremely well. After Ryan Cox ’20 finished in 26:33 for 17th overall, seven other first-years who ran in a pack for much of the race finished within 18 seconds of each other. These included Tristan Colaizzi ’20 (26:57, 24th), Peter Kirgis ’20 (26:58, 25th), Sam Wischnewsky ’20 (27:05, 26th), Isaac Goodman ’20 (27:08, 27th), Nick Gannon ’20 (27:11, 28th), Kenneth Marshall ’20 (27:13, 30th) and William McGovern ’20 (27:15, 32nd).
“Our harriers got a formidable challenge from a fast and deep Amherst pack that pushed us all the way to the final kick. The Ephmen responded with group moves in the lower woods loop to put the pressure on, and in the final straightaway kicks showed who had more left. It was excitingly close all the way, with victory ultimately claimed,” Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73 said.
Many of the men will finish their season next Saturday at the Plansky Invitational. For this meet, held at Mount Greylock Regional High School, the Ephs welcome back alumni to compete against current team members.
Meanwhile, the top 12 athletes will continue training for the NESCAC Championships, hosted by Colby on Oct. 29.