WESTFIELD, MA – The Williams men's cross country team competed on Saturday in the Division III NCAA New England Cross Country Regional Championship. The meet was a high-powered showdown featuring all NESCAC teams except Hamilton, including nationally ranked #5 Tufts, #8 Middlebury, #11 Bates, and #14 Bowdoin. The perfectly cool, sunny day brought a large number of fans to the course, giving the meet an energy appropriate for one that would decide national qualifiers.
The race went out quickly, and a strong group of Williams runners emerged up front. After the race, head coach Pete Farwell would emphasize the importance of four Williams runners (Chris Lee '14, Scott Rodilitz '13, Wade Davis '13, and Max Laberge '14) making sure they put themselves toward the front of the pack. "Once they got up there," Farwell added, "it was all about sticking together and trying to move ahead as a group." Lee remained with the leaders for most of the race, and held strong for an 8th place finish and a time of 25:02. Rodilitz and Davis were not far back, finishing less than a second apart in 13th and 14th overall (25:12.42 and 25:13.22). Laberge would fade a bit, but nonetheless secure All-Region honors with a 25:33 30th-place finish. Lee, Rodilitz and Davis were also All-Region, as the distinction is awarded to the first 35 finishers in the race.
Meanwhile, still awaiting a fifth finisher, the Ephs would get help from freshman Bijan Mazaheri. Mazaheri was making a strong push toward the end of the race and closed well, passing multiple runners on the home straightaway. He would end up 48th in 25:57, a performance that assistant coach Lance Harden called "very clutch." Sophomore Aldis Inde and senior Brandon Abasolo finished 58th and 63rd respectively, with times of 26:09 and 26:19.
Evenly matched as many believed the top five teams to be, few could have predicted as close a race as the team scoring revealed. Williams was fourth, scoring 113, ahead of fifth-place and NESCAC champion Tufts by only a point. Middlebury led the way with 91, followed by Bowdoin (101) and Bates (105). Bowdoin's Coby Horowitz and Samuel Seekins finished first and second in the race. Farwell, in his 34th year as Williams' head coach, said the 23-point margin separating first from fifth at Regionals was the smallest he could remember.
As the first and second finishers, Middlebury and Bowdoin earned automatic bids for next weekend's NCAA Division III National Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana. Williams will have to wait and see if they are awarded an at-large bid to the meet. Up to five teams total from one region can be given bids, and the selections will be announced tomorrow. It is worth noting both that the New England region was awarded five bids for last year's NCAA Championship, and that NESCAC champion Tufts cannot be awarded a bid without Williams being given one as well.