Amherst MA—The Williams men's cross country team continued their Little Three winning streak on Saturday, making it 28 straight wins over Amherst and Wesleyan.
The Lord Jeffs entered the meet ranked second in the nation in the latest USTFCCCA poll, and thus were favored to beat seventh-ranked Williams. Wesleyan is currently ranked 22nd, making this potentially the most competitive Little Three Championship in the past decade. In a race that was close throughout, Williams pulled away with the victory by a score of 27-32 over Amherst. Wesleyan finished third with 77 points.
"Little Threes brings out the best in our team," said head coach Pete Farwell. "Watching the guys warm up today, I saw a high level of energy and focus. They looked ready to win."
The 8-kilometer race went out quickly with athletes from all three schools fighting at the front. Inevitably, Mohamed Hussein of Amherst and the Ephs' Bijan Mazaheri '16 broke away from the field and battled to the finish. At the Purple Valley Classic in late September, it came down to the final strides as Hussein edged Mazaheri by a second. Today Hussein was once again the victor, finishing in 25:47 to Mazaheri's 25:51. These two are among the best in Division III, and will continue to face each other well into the postseason.
With Amherst taking the individual crown, Williams looked to its depth to earn the victory. Through much of the race, the second through fifth runners from the Ephs and the Jeffs were together in a big pack and it was unclear which team would pull ahead for the victory. But Ben Decker '18 turned the race in the Williams' favor with a decisive move on Amherst's second runner Dan Crowley. Decker emerged from the group to take third in 26:15. Peter Hale '17 and Griffin Colaizzi '18 also outlasted their Amherst counterparts to earn fifth and sixth place, respectively. Only a blink of an eye separated the two Ephs, as both finished in 26:26.
"Ben had a breakthrough race for us," Farwell observed. "Peter and Griffin followed him with moves of their own and pushed each other to strong finishes. They emulated great team running, inspiring each other forward. Together, these guys had the biggest impact on the team score."
Though Amherst brought in five runners before Williams, the high places of the first four Ephs were enough to win the meet. Wesleyan also aided Williams' victory, as the tri-meet scoring allowed the Cardinals' Taylor Titcomb to displace the Jeff's last three scorers. Behind this pack, Noah Williams '17 (11th, 26:52), Todd Ford '16 (12th, 26:53), and Kyle Kistinger '16 (14th, 27:03) rounded out the Ephs' top seven.
Beyond the top runners, Coach Farwell recognized some of his athletes who had exceptional performances on the day. "Zachary Dulabon '18 ran a very gutsy race that showed his strength and proved he's trained hard. Zeke Cohen '19 and Lucas Estrada '19 also ran well and are moving up towards our top group."
The team also welcomed back a few runners who have missed time due to injury. Alex Kilman '18 and Ian Concannon '18 both raced for the first time since the McGill Invitational on September 12. David Folsom '17 returned to competition after missing more than a year with a torn plantar fascia.
"Today we saw a very close battle between three great teams," said coach Farwell. "Our team has been strong all season but really gelled together today. I'm looking forward to seeing Amherst and Wesleyan again at the NESCAC Championships."
Most of the cross country team will end their season next Saturday at the Plansky Invitational. For this meet at Mt. Greylock High School, Coach Farwell welcomes back alumni to compete against the current team. Meanwhile, the top 12 runners will be training for the NESCAC Championships hosted by Wesleyan on October 31.