34 Hours, 2000+ Miles to Support Teammates and Witness History at the NCAA Championship Cross Country Race

Teammates supporting teammates halfway across the country/Jim Harleen
Teammates supporting teammates halfway across the country/Jim Harleen

by Greg Ferland '16

This past Saturday, the Williams women's cross country team won the NCAA Championship and the men took second place, marking the best-combined finish for the Ephs at the NCAAs. In what has become a new tradition, 35 runners drove from Williamstown to Wisconsin to see their teammates compete. Most people would think it's crazy to drive halfway across the country just to watch under an hour of running. But this group of spectators couldn't have been more excited.

The cross country team has a combined roster of more than 80 men and women of varying ability. But everyday at 4:10pm, we all gather together for practice. Conversations begun on runs carry over into dinner at Driscoll and study sessions in Sawyer Library. And soon bonds are formed between teammates that bring the whole group closer together. Thus, when our top seven runners compete on the national stage, there is an incredible amount of support from the rest of the team.

In some sense, the driving is the easiest part. Everything about the trip is initiated and organized by team members and it takes an incredible amount of planning to bring it all together. Nigel Bates '17 and Matt Rock '16, with assistance from Matt Tarduno '16 and I, managed to assemble the mass of students wanting to make the trip into discrete groups each with a detailed itinerary, a car and driver, and a cheap motel room in Wisconsin.

The journey began on Thursday with one group spending the night in Toledo and the other powering through to Chicago. The long drive was made easier by everyone's pent-up excitement about the race. Music also helped the time pass faster and most everyone came equipped with a playlist of their favorite songs. Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean" and "Sorry" were very popular, and "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes played at least once in every state. It also was nice to pass through places with familiar names, such as Williams County, OH, Amherst, NY, and Middlebury, IN.

When the cow suits come out you know it will
be a good day for the Ephs/Jim Harleen

At some point during the first night, Jay Habib '18 started yelling about a green flash of light in the sky. We spent the next few hours debating whether he had seen signs of alien life or perhaps the coming of the Green Lantern. A few more flashes confirmed that we were actually seeing meteors.

By Friday evening, everyone had arrived in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and we managed to find a restaurant willing to seat our large party on short notice: La Cabaña Mexican Grill. After filling ourselves with tasty Mexican food, the manager took a picture of us for their Facebook page and wished our team good luck. Back at the hotel, Stella Worters '18 provided purple hair dye to bring out even more Eph spirit before the race.

Even T Bear was back in Eph hands for the big
day/Jim Harleen

For the big day, our already large group was augmented by alums Dan Siegel '15, Aldis Inde '15, Lily Gaddis '15, Anna Spiers '15, and Peter Drews '14. Everyone stood decked out in purple and cow print below a gigantic Williams College flag that only comes out for nationals.

While our top seven men and women competed, the Eph spectators ran a race of their own trying to catch as many views of the runners as possible across the course. As soon as our seventh runner passed, the mob would sprint off to the next viewing point only making it just in time for the runners to come through again.

After the race, the team gathered for a banquet at Delta Family Restaurant. The night began with a best hair contest and out of many purple-haired competitors, Greg Ferland's Mohawk was deemed the winner. Second prize went to Nigel Bates and his purple, W-shaped goatee. Then we wished happy birthday to coach Sarah Lagasse and sang songs about T Bear who returned to the team just in time for the NCAA Championships. Coach Farwell closed out the night with an impassioned recap of the day's events.

Suddenly it was Sunday morning and the Eph spectators had to begin their long drive back to Williamstown. There was much less excitement keeping people engaged than on the drive out, so most people slept or crammed in last-minute homework. We tried to sing, but our voices were lost from all the shouting at the race. With classes to attend Monday morning, most of the group drove 17 hours straight to Williamstown on Sunday. Others broke up the drive via Rochester and finished it up on Monday morning.

Lastly, this trip would not have been possible without the generosity of the families who hosted us along the road. Thank you to Joan O'Connell, Jonathan Black and Kaarina Salovaara, and Beth and John Tarduno. Also, we'd like to thank Tom Rock for buying us sandwiches at the race.

Editor's Note: Greg Ferland has run cross country for four years at Williams and run track for three years, while contributing to Sports Info by covering cross country for two years, track & field for one year and he even spent one spring as a member of the famed Sports Info lacrosse stats team that traveled the northeast for Eph "home" games while the Weston Field project was being completed. A mathematics major, Ferland, earned Academic All-NESCAC Cross Country honors this fall.