Ephs head to Middletown, CT in Search of 8th NESCAC Title in Last 10 Years

Bijan Mazaheri '16
Bijan Mazaheri '16

WILIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams College men's cross country team will head to Middletown, Connecticut this Saturday to compete in the NESCAC Championships.

Peter Farwell's Ephs are ranked first in the New England Region and second nationally behind Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Wesleyan University will host the 2015 NESCAC Cross Country Championships this Saturday, Oct. 31 at Long Lane Farm in Middletown, Connecticut. The 33rd annual men's championship race is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m.

The Ephs are in search of their eighth conference crown in the last ten years and 15th overall following last year's championship performance in Middlebury, Vermont.

In 2014 the Ephs ran away from the field after having three runners finish in the top four en route to 39 points. Williams graduated two of those three harriers, including the first-place finisher, but senior Bijan Mazaheri (Wellesley, Mass.) and sophomore Ben Decker (Yarmouth, Maine) lead a deep squad eager to capture its third straight title.

Mazaheri, who finished third a year ago, has been the top Eph finisher throughout the season, placing second at the Purple Valley Classic and the Little Three Championship. The 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and two-time All-NESCAC runner also finished seventh at the Paul Short Invitational, which was first among Division III competitors.

Decker returns as the reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year. He has followed up his rookie campaign by placing third at the Little Three Championship and ninth at the Purple Valley Classic. Both harriers helped the Ephs win the Little Three Championship title on Oct. 17, place second at the Purple Valley Classic, and finish 13th at the Paul Short Invitational on Oct. 2.

Williams will need to get past a very strong field that includes nine NESCAC teams ranked in the regional top 10: Amherst (2), Bates (4), Wesleyan (5), Tufts (6), Colby (7), Middlebury (8), Connecticut College (9) and Bowdoin (10).

"We will be facing an outstanding NESCAC field," said Farwell. After a three-point loss and a five-point win against Amherst earlier this season, we expect another close battle with the Jeffs, with several other teams in the mix as well. Our guys are feeling strong and looking forward to the challenge. It should be an exciting race!

Amherst is ranked second in New England and fifth nationally. The Jeffs have climbed up the team standings each of the last two years, placing seventh in 2013 and fourth in 2014, and look to continue the trend as they aim to win their first-ever NESCAC men's cross country title. Amherst is paced by returning Second Team All-NESCAC runners, sophomore Mohammed Hussein (Hargesia, Somaliland) and senior Dan Crowley (Ludlow, Mass.). Hussein, who has been phenomenal this season, won the UMass Invitational, the Purple Valley Classic, the Little Three Championship and took second place among all runners at the NEICAAA Championship on October 10.

Crowley has posted four top-ten finishes, placing fourth at the Little Three Championship, fifth at the Purple Valley Classic, seventh at the UMass Invitational and tenth at the NEICAAA Championship. As a team, Amherst won the Purple Valley Classic and turned in runner-up showings at the UMass Invitational, the NEICAAA Championship and the Little Three Championship.

Bates has been getting better as the season has gone on. The Bobcats started the month by finishing eighth in the Brown Division at the Paul Short Invitational and won their second consecutive Maine State Championship two weeks later on Oct. 17. Senior Allen Sumrall (Albuquerque, N.M.) has led Bates' improvement during the month, having posted a runner-up finish at the Maine State Championship and a 27th-place finish at the Paul Short Invitational.

One of the surprise teams this season has been Wesleyan, which looks to improve on last year's eighth-place finish. The Cardinals placed seventh in the Brown Division at the Paul Short Invitational due in large part to senior Taylor Titcomb's (Port Washington, N.Y.) 15th-place finish in the race. Titcomb has been Wesleyan's most consistent harrier, as he also placed seventh at the Little Three Championship.

Tufts returns a pair of All-NESCAC performers from last year's fifth-place team in juniors Tim Nichols (North Lima, Ohio) and Luke O'Connor (Chicago, Ill.). O'Connor finished sixth at the NEICAAA Championship, while Nichols crossed the finish line 14th to help the Jumbos finish 11th in the team standings on Oct. 10. Both runners are joined by sophomore Ty Enos (North Dighton, Mass.), who was the top Tufts finisher at the Purple Valley Classic and the Connecticut College Invitational.

Hamilton heads into the weekend peaking at the right time of the year. The Continentals, who were ninth at the 2014 NESCAC Championship, are fresh off first-place finishes at the Hamilton Invitational and the New York State Collegiate Track Conference (NYSCTC) Championship. Senior Adam Pfander (Beacon, N.Y.) won the NYSCTC Championship last Saturday, while junior Jack Pierce (New Gloucester, Maine) has been Hamilton's top performer in three other meets this season.

The race for top individual honors will be a tightly contested one. The lead pack will likely consist of Amherst's Hussein and Crowley, Bates' Sumrall, Hamilton's Pfander and Pierce, Tufts' Nichols and O'Connor, Wesleyan's Titcomb and Williams' Mazaheri and Decker. Other runners looking to contend include Bowdoin junior Bridger Tomlin (Boulder, Colo.), Colby junior Silas Eastman (Chatham, N.H.), Connecticut College junior Ben Bosworth (Dorchester, Mass.), Middlebury senior Sebastian Matt (New Albany, Ohio) and Trinity senior Patrick Hoagland (San Diego, Calif.). A junior or senior has earned first place each year since 2008.