Hosting the NESCAC Championships at Wesleyan was asking for trouble from the start, especially on Halloween. Fans from the furthest schools in the ’CAC road tripped to our infamous Long Lane Farm to compete with the rowdy Wesleyan cheering section as our Cardinal runners raced among nationally-ranked teams. The ridiculous side line costumes and boisterous fans couldn’t quite steal the spotlight from the cutthroat rivals that did battle on Wesleyan’s course. The stampede of eager long-legged runners was even the highlight of the NESCAC’s Snapchat story.
Williams topped the ’CAC, winning both the men’s 8k race and the women’s 6k. For the Ephs men, the victory was their fourth consecutive NESCAC championship title. Wesleyan’s men’s team put in impressive work, adding up to an average team time of 26:12.65, not at all far behind William’s 25:15.15. The slim, minute difference simply exemplifies the outstanding competition our conference fosters.
The Wes men stole some praiseworthy high rankings among the ’CAC’s 129 total runners, with Taylor Titcomb ’16 coming in 19th, Will Dudek ’17 in 25th, and Reid Hawkins ’17 in 32nd. The Cards outran Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, and Trinity.
“The team as a whole had a decent showing,” Hawkins said. “Going in we were aiming for third. Amherst and Williams, both top-5 nationally, were out of our range but we felt, and still feel, like everyone else is kind of fair game. We ended up sixth, with six points separating us from fourth. It’s not the result we necessarily wanted, but it shows that we’re back on track to make a bid at qualifying for nationals after a disastrous outing at Little Three’s. The team is looking forward to regionals in two weeks. If we put it together on the day we should punch our ticket to Oshkosh.”
“We ran fine, not good, but not terrible,” Keith Conway ’16 added. “If we run like that again we will have a shot at nationals, but we need to run better. It’s time for us to nut up and run for each other.”
As of two weeks ago, before the NESCAC Championships, the Williams men were ranked second nationally. Amherst followed in fifth, Bates at 19th, and Wesleyan at 29th. The Wesleyan runners will race again this upcoming weekend at Mt. Greylock High School in Williamstown, Mass., where the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship is hosted.
The women’s team battled out the 6k race against nationally ranked teams as well. Williams is second, Tufts follows in fourth, Middlebury in seventh, and Colby in 32nd.
Williams took the championship with an average time of 22:05.18, followed by Tufts and then Middlebury. The Cards clocked in with an average team time of 23:43.04, and like the men’s team, held some high spots out of the 123 runners. Molly Schassberger ’17 placed 33rd, Julia Mitchell ’19 40th, and Caroline Elmendorf ’17 44th. The girls topped both Trinity and Hamilton to finish in ninth out of the eleven NESCAC teams.
“Going into the race on Saturday, I think everyone was super excited,” Schassberger said. “We were hosting [NESCACs], which is always a fun meet filled with great competition. For me, I think this may have translated to a quick start which ultimately led to a disappointing race. A few girls had great races though, namely Joie Akerson [’17], and Juli Riggs [’17], who competed in her first race of the season, back from injury. Overall, the team didn’t perform as well as we had hoped, though we saw a few good races and a lot of excellent cheering. For me, the most exciting part of the day was the slew of support we had from the student body and parents. Cross country isn’t typically a highly-spectated sport, so it was awesome to see so many people out cheering us on.”
Rhoen Fiutak ’19 also praised the Wesleyan fan section and shared Schassberger’s sentiments.
“It’s hard when the results don’t go your way, but experiencing NESCACs as a freshman is quite amazing,” she said. “Toeing the line with athletes whom you looked up to as a high school student is incredible and daunting at the same time. The race itself was aggressive and mentally challenging. The grand support from the Wesleyan community dressed to impress on Halloween [and] was much needed and truly appreciated.”
Akerson also lauded the Cardinal cheering section and her teammates.
“It was great to have home field advantage, both in terms of fan support and knowing the course inside and out,” she said. “We didn’t quite get the results we were looking for as a team, but the NESCAC is a really competitive division. There were some really spectacular individual races, like Juli Riggs, who is coming right off an injury. As we head into the final few weeks of the season, I think we just need to remember how many miles we’ve put in, how hard we’ve worked, and trust in that and each other.”
The women are back at it this upcoming weekend, joining the guys in Williamstown for the ECAC Championship. Both teams possess the drive and the talent to force some upsets and break some records in these upcoming races.