Last weekend, the Wesleyan runners headed over to Harkness Park in Waterford, Conn. for the NCAA Division III Regional Championships. The Cards had been more than eager for the last guaranteed race of the season, which would determine the success of their bid for Nationals.
The women’s team finished 13th out of 56, joining the dominating NESCAC conference. Williams, Tufts, Middlebury, Amherst, Colby, Connecticut College, Bowdoin, and Bates all finished within the top 13. The Wes women ran with the nationally-ranked teams and produced an incredible showing. Molly Schassberger ’17 led her team per usual, finishing 46th, with Caroline Elmendorf ’17 following in 49th, Julia Mitchell ’19 in 83rd, Juli Riggs ’17 in 111th, and Rhoen Fiutak ’19 in 119th out of 390 runners.
Schassberger shared her sentiments on the championship race and the end of her season.
“Regionals was a fun day,” she said. “For the girls’ team it wasn’t quite what we imagined at the beginning of the season, but for where everyone was at going into the meet, everyone really raced and stayed engaged. The end of the season is always bittersweet. It’s crazy to think that I, and the rest of the 2017ers on the team, only have one season of XC left. We’re all super excited that the men’s team qualified for Nationals. Caroline and I are flying out to watch their race next weekend.”
Mitchell also expressed her sadness about her first season coming to an end.
“This weekend was a little disappointing for me because I did not perform as well as I wanted to,” said Mitchell. “It wasn’t the end note I wanted to finish my season on. But I keep reminding myself that this is only my first season with these wonderful people so I’m looking forward to the future.”
Riggs also elaborated on the season and the Regional Championship race.
“The weekend was good,” she said. “Regionals is a super fun race because there are so many teams and a lot of really talented runners. The men killed it. We were all really proud and excited to see so many of them up there on the awards panel. They worked hard and they deserve it. The women did well, too, better than last year, but still not at our full potential. It’s hard because we lost some girls to injury and it’s been a hard and long season, really rough on a lot of people’s legs. The course was nice and flat though. And pretty, right along the ocean. Really windy but it’s over so fast. Also a very aggressive race. They had to redo the start because a girl fell. That almost never happens.”
Riggs continued to share her own feelings about her performance and experience with the team.
“I was injured for most of the season but was lucky to be back for the last two and most important races, CAC’s and Regionals, on fresh legs,” she said. “I’m sad it’s over but also real excited to have some extra free time and eat a lot of shitty food. As for next season, I’m going abroad so I won’t be there. But it’s going to be a good one as long as everyone’s healthy. Christina [Hebner ’17] and Sylwia [Lipior ’18] are monsters on the track, so I’m excited to see what they do. Also I think the freshmen, who are new to college track, are gonna tear it up it as well. I will miss everyone.”
Although the Regional Championships was the last race for the women’s team, XC season isn’t over, as the men’s team qualified for Nationals in Wisconsin this upcoming weekend on Nov. 21.
The men earned themselves an impressive fourth place out of 55 teams, easily beating out familiar teams like Middlebury, Colby, Bates, Connecticut College, Bowdoin, and Trinity. Individually, the top five Wes runners were each given the All-Regional award. Leading the Cards was Taylor Titcomb ’16 who finished 9th out of 383 runners. Following Titcomb was Will Dudek ’17 in 17th, Eric Arsenault ’17 in 26th, Reid Hawkins ’17 in 27th, and Keith Conway ’16 in 35th.
To earn a spot at Nationals, teams must place within the top two at the Regional Championship. A total of eight Regional Championships across the country were held and a total of 32 teams will compete at Nationals, leaving an additional 16 spots for third, fourth, fifth, or even sometimes sixth place finishing teams. In the past, the New England Regional race has sent four to six teams to Nationals. It was made official Saturday afternoon that the Wesleyan runners will be headed for Wisconsin this weekend.
Tate Knight ’18 echoed his teammates’ enthusiasm.
“Our top five ran amazingly, all getting top 35 in the field, and getting All-Regional recognition,” he said. “Found out today that our fourth-place finish got us a ride to Nationals. Very exciting.”
Hawkins went into more depth about his team, the Regional Championships, and his growth as a runner.
“We’re all just pretty torqued about this whole thing,” he said. “The weekend was pretty awesome, no major accidents. There wasn’t really a ‘call’ regarding Nationals. We beat the number eight team in the nation, so we’re going. I love all my teammates. Our top five were all-region which is pretty fresh. We’re for sure excited to make the trip with Trinity College lava-lamp enthusiast [Patrick] ‘Hoagie’ Hoagland. For emphasis, each and every one of us is 100 percent torqued about this outcome. Every day this summer I woke up and told myself ‘Reid, you’re a superstar’ and now, having come in 27th in the region, I’m pretty happy to have fulfilled my promise to myself.”
The guys’ will be flying out to Midwestern territory this weekend to give the rest of the qualifiers the competition they’ve been waiting for. The Cards are more than ready for a stunning showing in Wisconsin, hoping to make some Wesleyan cross country history.