Gorham, ME—The Williams Men's Cross Country team competed today at the Division III New England Regional Championship, hoping for a berth into next week's NCAA Championship. This meet drew 55 scoring teams, and 370 finishers as one of the largest fields Williams competes in each season. The Ephs finished 4th today with 137 points, behind MIT (81), Amherst (91), and Middlebury (124).
Coming into the meet, the Ephs were ranked 5th in the region, and had placed a disappointing 5th at the NESCAC Championship. Although only the top 2 teams in the regional receive an automatic birth to the NCAA meet, the New England region has received at least 2 additional at-large bids since 2010. Therefore, the Ephs knew that 4th or better was the goal, and they would need a strong performance to reach that goal.
On the tough, hilly course, the Ephs put themselves in position to score highly, getting out hard, but continually moving up through the pack. Co-captains Liam Simpson '18 and Ben Decker '18, along with first-year Aidan Ryan '21, led the way for the Ephs in the early running, followed closely by the other four. As positions shifted in the pack, each Eph worked with one another to pass other competitors and finish strong. Plymouth States's Sam Brunette won the individual title in 25:22, followed closely by Connecticut College's Scott Mason (25:24) and MIT's Dennis Maloney (25:31).
Sophomore Ryan Cox '20 was the top Eph for the first time in his career, finishing in a convincing 25:52 for 19th overall. He was followed by a resurgent Decker, who, although dropping back a few places in the latter portion of the race due to lingering illness, held it together to finish in 26:00 for 23rd. Next for the Ephs was Williams' usual top runner, Simpson, who ran a respectable 26:02 for 26th, despite stopping to put back on his spikes in the middle of the race. Ryan and Mitchell Morris '19 rounded out the top 5 for the Ephs, each finishing with strong kicks for 33rd and 36th place, in times of 26:11 and 26:14.
Peter Kirgis '19 also had a strong race, finishing in 44th place in 26:19. Co-captain Griffin Colaizzi ran a tough race, falling back in the last half of the race to finish in 111th place for 27:20, in just his second race since returning from injury.
Head Coach Pete Farwell was excited by his team's performance and the meet as a whole, exclaiming "this was a real barnburner of a meet, very competitive with a lot of non-NESCAC individuals. Everyone really gutted it out and put a lot into it, fighting for every place they could get. It was so nice to see all the Ephs working together. I think with one more week of training, our runners today who were coming back from injury or illness will be much stronger; we have a lot of upside. We're not yet certain if we're going to get an at-large bid—that's up to the NCAA and can be a little hard to predict—but New England is a very good region and I'm proud of our guys. I think we acquitted ourselves well, but still have room to grow."
Should the Ephs receive an at-large bid, they will compete next Saturday at the NCAA Championship in Elsah, Illinois.