Fifty-nine teams gathered at Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass. for the New England Regional Division III championships on Saturday, Nov. 12. Among these squads were the Cardinals and every NESCAC team except for the Hamilton Continentals, who compete in the Atlantic region. The day was sunny, and the course was packed with the 384 male runners and 406 women, with each group running just one big race. The women placed 10th out of the teams competing, just behind Wellesley College and ahead of Colby. In the race, the Cards beat Trinity and Conn College as well, replicating their performance in the NESCAC Championships two weeks previously. The men placed 12th, behind Conn College and ahead of Norwich University.
Though the Cardinal men finished among the top fifth of all teams competing, their performance failed to match last year’s fifth-place finish at Regionals, albeit out of only 55 teams. At last year’s race, recently graduated Tyler Titcomb ’16 crossed the finish line first for the Cards with a time of 24:57.7, putting him at ninth place overall.
In the men’s division this year, the first runners to cross the line were Tufts’ Tim Nichols at 23:54.58, and a full 31.8 seconds later Matt Deyo of MIT. The first Card to come in was Will Dudek ’17 in eighth with 24:55.34. This performance showed improvement from his final position in the NESCAC Championships, where he placed 10th without competition from prominent non-NESCAC schools such as Brandeis and MIT.
“Although we’ve had better days, all our boys raced tough and I couldn’t be more proud to represent our team on Saturday,” Dudek said.
Dudek earned All-Region honors for his performance and will be going to the NCAA championship race, which will be held at Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky. That will be his last race as a collegiate cross country runner, topping off an impressive four-year career. In September 2013, Dudek competed at the Wesleyan Invitational on the Wes Fuhrman trails, where he placed fifth out of 18 men’s runners, finishing with a time of 22 minutes and 36 seconds. This year the same course took him only 20:31.51, a two-minute and four-second improvement.
After Dudek came Tate Knight ’18 in 30th with a time of 25:24.72. Knight also received All-Region honors for his performance Saturday. Following Knight was Kevin McMorrow ’20 in 81st with a time of 26:11.35.
Coming in fourth for the Cards was Reid Hawkins ’17, who arrived at the finish in 26:20.18. Hawkins arrived in a tight scrum, sandwiched between Benard Kibet of Colby and WPI’s Nathan Stromberg. Hawkins’ debut in the Cardinal Red and Black was also the Wesleyan Invitational in 2013, where he placed third, with a time of 22:02.2. This year, he completed that course in 20:48.15, an improvement of 1 minute and 12 seconds. This was the last race Hawkins will run for the Cardinal cross country team.
Large races are, by their nature, close competitions, and the regional championship was no exception. The first woman to come in, Tufts’ Brittany Bowman, came in at 21:14.29, only two seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Megan McCandless of MIT. The first Cardinal to come in was Rhoen Fiutak ’19 in 44th with a time of 22:23.08, just .19 seconds behind 43rd place finisher Katharine MacCary of Middlebury.
After Fiutak came Caroline Elmendorf ’17 in 51st with a time of 22:29.73. In third for Wesleyan, 61st overall, arrived sophomore Julia Mitchell, posting 22:42.11 on the course. The next Cardinal, Molly Schassberger ’17, came in at 23:09.02, followed by first-year Hannah Gillis ’20 in 105th at 23:27.38. Unfortunately, no Cardinals qualified for Nationals, ending the women’s season.
Elmendorf and Schassberger, who also concluded their stint as collegiate cross country runners on Saturday, both began their college careers at the same Wesleyan Invitational in 2013 where Hawkins and Dudek first ran. In that race, Schassberger came in second and Elmendorf came in third out of the 17 runners competing. Schassberger finished with a time of 19:34.2 three years ago and 18:22.47 this year, improving by 1 minute and 12 seconds. Elmendorf ran a 19:48.7 as a first-year and an 18:44.01 this year, shaving off one minute and four seconds.
Though the squads’ first races of the season comprised only three small teams, their last boasted 59. As the competition intensified, the Cards rose to the challenge, finishing well in the NESCAC and setting the program up well for future success.