This weekend, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to compete in Lehigh University’s annual Paul Short Run.
The race consists of three divisions. Top DI, DII, and some nationally-ranked DIII teams compete in the Gold Division. Top DII and DIII teams and remaining DI teams compete in the Brown Division. The rest of DIII competes in the White Division.
Both Wesleyan teams competed impressively in the Brown Division. The men finished fourth overall with Taylor Titcomb ’16 leading the pack, finishing in 9th place with a time of 5:05. Titcomb was followed closely by Will Dudek ’17, Keith Conway ’16, Reid Hawkins ’17, Eric Arsenault ’17, Tate Knight ’18, and Dontay Downer ’19.
The team finished the 8k with an average completion time of 25:37, not far behind the first place average of 25:09. The squad managed to outrun the other NESCAC teams in the Brown Division, cruising past Bates, Colby, and Connecticut College.
“It’s challenging for the freshmen, but is a distance familiar to veterans,” commented Knight on the nature of the 8k.
The flat course winds through and around Lehigh’s campus. On race day, adverse conditions made for an interesting race.
“The course was wet after a few days’ rain, leaving us with mud-caked legs but personal best times,” Knight said.
Conway said he was proud of the team for placing fourth out of 22 teams.
“It was probably our best team performance in years,” he said. “We beat four nationally-ranked teams.”
Both Conway and Titcomb are eager to achieve even more. Conway summed up his post-race sentiments with a unique turn of phrase.
“We left some meat on the bone, and we can definitely do better,” he said.
Titcomb, who came in ninth out of 208 runners, felt similarly.
“We only had an average race overall,” he said. “But with such a great finish, there is a lot of potential.”
Knight echoed the seniors’ tenacious attitudes.
“Although this was a strong start for our season, we are still keeping weekly mileage high, workouts fast, and minds focused as we prepare to take on Amherst and Williams at Little Threes,” he said.
Going into the Little Three rivalry race with an impressive regional and national ranking certainly hasn’t stunted the team’s drive for improvement.
After the weekend’s hard-earned outcome, the squad has jumped five spots to fifth place in the regional ranking, and they currently sit at 21st nationally in Division III. Williams and Amherst still hold the top two regional positions, but the Cardinals are eager to up the ante with these rivals. The Little Three Championship will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17 at Amherst.
The women’s team joined the men at Lehigh, finishing with an excellent 13th place finish out of 28 teams in the 6k. The team had an average finish time of 23:06 and was lead by junior Molly Schassberger. Schassberger ran a pace of 5:56, finished the course in 22:07, and was followed by Julia Mitchell ’19, Caroline Elmendorf ’17, Christina Hebner ’17, Morgan Findley ’18, Rhone Fiutak ’19, and Carina Flaherty ’19, respectively.
Flaherty enjoyed returning to her home state of Pennsylvania to race.
“It was really fun because I ran it in high school,” she said. “We are still working on closing the gaps between our main pack of girls, but if we’re able to accomplish that, then the rest of the season should be really exciting.”
Elmendorf elaborated on the elite competition the team faced at Lehigh.
“Some people had strong showings, but we expect to see a lot of improvement by the end of the season,” she said. “The invitational was very competitive. There were a lot of Division I teams in our race that we won’t see again for the rest of the season. So it was an opportunity to be pushed to very fast times, in comparison to later races against conference teams.”
Hebner recounted the race with a subtle combination of superstition, humor, and tenacity.
“Due to the eclipse this past week, I was worried that the moon’s pull might turn the tide on the continuous success of the WesXC team,” she wrote in an email to The Argus. “But thank heavens that was not the case. The Wesleyan women ran at the speed of light. Also, I shot for the moon and landed myself a personal best time. Is it safe to say success was written in the Pennsylvania stars that day?”
The women’s team fell short in some capacities, though. They finished behind the other NESCAC teams (Colby, Bates, and Connecticut College) in the Brown Division. However, this loss is only a testament to the competitiveness of the NESCAC, as a 13th out of 28 finish is still incredibly admirable.
Further, Schassberger finished 16th out of a massive crowd of 253 runners, and some team members acquired personal best times. Wesleyan is racing against the best of the best, which only fuels the eager athletes to train harder. As Hebner pointed out, the Paul Short Run was a win in Wesleyan’s books.
The women’s team joins the men on October 17 at Amherst for the Little Three Championship. Williams currently holds the top regional ranking spot, with Amherst a few spots down, in fifth. Currently, the Wesleyan women don’t hold a top 10 regional spot, but with the Wesleyan Invitational win, the impressive Paul Short Run finish, and the team’s irrepressible desire to advance, the Little Three Championship race should be more competitive than ever.
Two weeks after that, the Cardinals will be back on home turf hosting the conference meet on Saturday, Oct. 31.