Williams College hosted the New England Regional Championship at Mt. Greylock High School Saturday, where forty-nine men's teams competed for the regional crown and the chance to run at next week's NCAA National Championship meet. Only five days after Williamstown's first snowfall of the year, Saturday thankfully dawned with high temperatures and a cloudless sky. The beautiful eight kilometer (five mile) course, which features both grassy fields and wooded trails, was completely dry by the men's race time of eleven o'clock. Over three hundred runners competed in the race; naturally the start was extremely crowded, but within minutes the field separated considerably.
By the first mile mark, a lead pack including Middlebury's Michael Schmidt (last week's NESCAC champion), Williams' Josephat Koima (25:44), and Amherst's Will Yochum began to pull steadily away from the competition This pack remained stable until the runners entered the course's wooded loop, where several rolling hills helped Schmidt gain the lead over Koima and Yochum. Though Koima nearly caught Schmidt by the finish, Schmidt managed to win the race in a time of 25:40 on the difficult course. Yochum finished third (25:50), and was followed by Timothy Pipp and Eric Macknight, both from Keene State. MIT's Paul Welle (6th, 25:57) was the first finisher on an MIT team that narrowly edged host Williams College for the team championship with a score of 93 to Williams' 101. Brandeis College, ranked first in the region for the majority of the season, finished third (139), Middlebury College was fourth (145), and Bates College placed fifth above Wesleyan University by a tiebreaker.
This tiebreak could be the difference for Bates' Nationals hopes; the top two teams from the eight regions around the country automatically qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet, while the remainder of the 32-team field receive at-large bids. As many as five teams from the New England region have competed at Nationals in past years. Individually, the top seven finishers from non-Nationals teams qualify for the meet; they will have to wait for the team at-large announcement from the NCAA before knowing if they have qualified. Williams earned a spot at Nationals with Saturday's second-place showing; led by Josephat Koima, all seven members of the Ephs regional squad ran a controlled, well-paced race. Ford Smith ran what he called "the best race of my life," finishing 15th in 26:14. He was followed by junior Anthony Raduazo (20th, 26:19), who will compete in his third straight Nationals next Saturday. Wade Davis was 30th in 26:30, Scott Rodilitz was 34th in 26:39, freshman Henry Koster was 50th in 27:00, and Mark Springel was 70th in 27:18. Rodilitz appears ready for an outstanding Nationals race, after starting Saturday's race conservatively and finishing very strongly over the race's final two miles.
The entire Ephs team is excited by Saturday's performance and automatic NCAA qualification. Head Coach Pete Farwell thinks his team will continue to improve, and he hopes the team stays healthy over the next seven days. The highlight of the men's cross-country season is next week's National Championship in Iowa, where top teams from around the county will compete in hopes of winning a national title.