W A T C H Men's NESCAC Race Courtesy of Joel Richardson '82:
WATERFORD, CT – On Saturday, the Williams men went into the NESCAC Championship with one goal in mind: reclaim the conference title. After coming away champions in 2011, the Ephs dropped to fifth last fall and entered this year's meet – hosted by Connecticut College at Harkness State Park – hungry for a return to the top. Eight-thousand meters of hard racing later, they had accomplished their goal, defeating second-place Middlebury by a score of 51-62.
The course is in southeastern Connecticut, and leads runners along the picturesque shores of the Long Island Sound. The flat terrain lends itself to fast times, and this race opened at an accordingly quick pace. Middlebury, who entered the meet ranked #4 nationally, looked like the clear favorites early on. However, late surges by multiple Williams runners, combined with very strong runs from the top-3 Ephs, was enough to make up the difference.
Connecticut College senior Michael LeDuc took home the individual victory on his home course, in a course record time of 24:35.2. Williams junior Colin Cotton was in contention for the win with 400 meters to go, and ended up 2nd with a time of 24:42.1. Senior captain Chris Lee was not far back, placing 5th overall in 24:57.4. Both Cotton and Lee earned first team All-NESCAC. Sophomore Bijan Mazaheri moved up very well to grab 9th place (25:07.1), in what was his strongest performance of the season. The finish earned him a spot on the second team All-NESCAC. "Coming into the race, we thought Bijan would have to run great to be All-NESCAC [top-14]," assistant coach Lance Harden said. "To see him in the top-10 is excellent."
Each of Williams' next four finishers also had their best race this season. Junior Aldis Inde and senior captain Max LaBerge finished consecutively in 17th and 18th (25:28.9 and 25:29.9). Freshman Peter Hale, who had battled injury for multiple weeks leading up to the meet, impressed nonetheless as he was 20th overall in 25:33.4. Head coach Peter Farwell praised Hale's attitude, saying "Peter stayed mentally positive that he could race, even through all of the cross-training." Just back of Hale in 22nd was senior captain Peter Drews, crossing the line in 25:34.6. "To see all of three of our senior captains in the top-7 is superb," Farwell noted. "It's a testament to both their leadership and their talent."
Beyond the top-7, freshman David Folsom was next for Williams, placing 36th in 25:50.5. Juniors Cole Townsend and Daniel Siegel were #9 and #10 for the team, crossing the line 39th (25:54.8) and 45th (26:04.6), respectively. Rounding out the Ephs' top-12 were junior Andrew Beaudoin in 67th (26:40.5) and sophomore Todd Ford in 73rd (26:48.6).
The 11-point margin by which Williams beat Middlebury indicates a very close race. Williams had three runners in before Middlebury did, but Middlebury's fourth runner was ahead of Williams' #4. The difference was this: not only did Williams have 5 in before Middlebury did, but Williams' #6 and #7 defeated Middlebury's #5, thus adding more points to Middlebury's score. Last year's champion Tufts was third with 103 points, well back of Williams' 51 and Middlebury's 62.
"This was one of the best team performances I've seen in the 3 years I've coached here," Harden said after the meet. "Middlebury ran great, but our depth prevailed." The depth was especially visible in examining the times. Earlier in the season at the Paul Short Invitational, Willaims' #1-5 spread was 1 minute, 31 seconds. At the NESCAC Championship today, the #1-7 spread was just 52 seconds. Farwell and Harden were also very impressed at the way Williams keenly remained patient and moved up late in the race. "We executed the race plan we had set out exactly," Harden said. "That's not easy to do in a championship race when adrenaline is high."
The win marked the sixth time in the last eight years that the Ephs have captured the NESCAC crown and it was their 14th overall NESCAC win, the most in the conference.
Next Saturday, Williams will run their #8-14 runners at the ECAC Championships in Bristol, Rhode Island. The following week, on Saturday, November 16th, The Ephs' top-7 will toe the line at the Division III New England Regional Championship. There, Williams will try to earn a spot at the Division III NCAA Championships, which will take place November 23rd in Hanover, Indiana.