The 2013 Wesleyan Cross Country Invitational pitted the Cardinals against Mitchell College in a meet on Thursday, Sept. 19 that kicked off the season. Both Wesleyan teams swept their respective races, with team scores of 15 to Mitchell’s 45 in men’s and 15 to Mitchell’s 50 in women’s, results that will hopefully set the tone for meets to come. Western Connecticut also competed but did not participate in team scoring.

For those unsure of how cross country scores are tallied, the rule is that the lower the points, the better the score. Think of it like scoring in golf: similar to every drive or putt affecting a golfer’s par, runners earn points that are equivalent to the number of their final placing at the end of the race. In addition, only the top-five placers on a team gain points. For example, a runner that places 10th in hir overall race but first for hir team will earn that team 10 points. Since a lower score wins the meet, the incentive is to place as many runners as possible in the top five at the end of each competition, ideally having all of a team’s top placers in the race’s top-five runners.

And that’s exactly what happened in the meet versus Mitchell. In both the men’s and women’s meets, the Cardinals swept all five spots in the race to record the lowest possible score. The women’s team ran a three-mile course and was led by veteran Libby Lazare ’14, posting a 19:04.4 finish time. The men’s team, led by Taylor Titcomb ’16, swept its four-mile race with a top time of 21:48.7.

While the results of this first meet are impressive, the victory remains on the peripheries of these oxygen-efficient Cardinals’ minds.

“The meet itself wasn’t much,” Titcombe said regarding the Wesleyan Invitational. “It was competitive, but yearly results usually don’t change all that much. The focus for us remains on the races to come and even beyond that. As a team, we’re looking to continue to improve and grow, especially [with] our younger runners. We’ve got a lot of talent in our freshmen and sophomores. They’re going to carry the team in the upcoming year or two.”

On a personal level, Titcomb is reaching even further.

“My ultimate goal this year is to qualify individually for nationals,” Titcomb explained. “It’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s going to take a lot of work. But with the team we have now, there’s no saying what we can do as a group and for each other.”

Eric Arsenault ’17, who placed fourth in last week’s meet, shared Titcombe’s optimism.

“We’ve got a good group,” Arsenault offered. “We’re dedicated, we’ve got good team chemistry, and we’re looking ahead past this year and into the next. [This year] will be good, but I think we’re in a rebuilding year more than anything.”

The cross country Cardinals also expressed their enthusiasm in competing together in an upcoming meet called the Paul Short Run on Saturday, Oct. 5 at Lehigh University.

“DI, DII, and DIII schools will be there, from all over,” said Molly Schassberger ’17. “We’re in our own division, Brown Division, but it’s still great to see this range of runners and to compete with other schools in our division.”

Another anticipated upcoming race is the Little Three Meet against rivals Williams and Amherst taking place at home on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Historically, Wesleyan has not met the success it has sought at this annual meet. In men’s, Williams has an unbroken winning streak since 1988. In women’s, Williams holds a similar monopoly on the championship since 1987, broken only four times by Amherst.

“It’s going to be tough, real tough,” Titcomb said. “[Wesleyan] hasn’t won in the past few decades. This year, it might be more of the same thing. But again, we’ve got talent that will only get better as the year goes on, so even if we can’t claim the title this year, we’ll be swinging for it in the next.”

Indeed, the last time the Cardinal men won was in 1984, an island in a sea of Williams victories; the women last saw a championship in 1986. But the picture is optimistic, the tasks presented plain and clear.

“It’ll come together,” Titcomb said. “We just have to work hard and look ahead. It’s all about the long game.”

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