Middletown, CT—On Saturday, the Williams men's cross country team traveled to Wesleyan University for the 2015 NESCAC Championships. The Ephs, currently ranked second in the latest national coaches' poll, are one of five nationally ranked teams in the conference. This group also includes No. 5 Amherst, No. 19 Bates, No. 29 Wesleyan, and No. 31 Tufts.
The 8-kilometer race was won by Amherst's Mohamed Hussein, who finished in 24:43. He battled back and forth with Williams' Bijan Mazaheri '16 before pulling away in the final meters. Mazaheri placed second in 24:49. Dan Crowley of Amherst took third in 25:01 and Ben Decker '18 of Williams was fourth in 25:07. Each of these runners broke the previous course record of 25:09, set by the Ephs' Neal Holtshute '06.
"Bijan led the way for us with another strong performance," Eph head coach Pete Farwell commented. "Ben looked great today as well. He's moved up every week this season and is now among the best in the NESCAC."
The team race was bunched up at the top through the first two miles with many runners vying for position. When the leaders began to separate from the rest of the field, it was a close battle among Williams, Amherst, and Tufts. Each team had two harriers in the top six, which meant the race would come down to who had the deepest scoring squad. In the end, the Ephs proved they had that depth and took the team title with a low score of 36 points. The victory was Williams' fourth straight conference title, and their eighth in the past ten years. Amherst finished second with 61 points and Tufts placed third with a score of 99.
"This course is very challenging," remarked coach Farwell. "The race went out quickly and our guys were smart to hang back early. That allowed them to pick people off over the final mile and finish strong."
The Ephs' strong performance was the result having of five All-Conference runners. Mazaheri, Decker, and Peter Hale '17 (7th, 25:19) earned first-team All-NESCAC honors. Griffin Colaizzi '18 (9th, 25:25) and Todd Ford '16 (14th, 25:33) earned second-team honors. Noah Williams '17 (15th, 25:34) narrowly missed an All-Conference finish as well.
Hale, Colaizzi, Ford, and Williams all dug deep over the final miles to pass key runners from other schools. Colaizzi had a particularly impressive performance, having never dipped under the 26-minute mark before today. "Griffin has improved a lot," Farwell said. "A top-ten finish in the NESCAC is a remarkable honor."
Kyle Kistinger '16 finished 21st in 25:58 and Liam Simpson '18 took 28th in 26:07. As Williams' seventh and eighth finishers, these two athletes beat every other school's fifth man. This kind of depth has been the Ephs' biggest strength all season long.
"Eventually everyone had their own battles," said Farwell. "For example, Liam came through today and beat four Amherst runners who edged him out at Little Threes."
Behind this top pack, a corps of underclassmen rounded out Williams' performance. Zeke Cohen '19 was the Ephs' top freshman, finishing 70th in 26:53. Behind him, Zachary Dulabon '18 took 79th in 27:07, Walker Knauss '19 was 91st in 27:32, and Lucas Estrada '19 placed 118th in 28:33.
"All in all the team accomplished another great mission," concluded Farwell. "We've set ourselves up well down the stretch towards regionals."
Next Saturday, Williams will host the ECAC Championships at Mt. Greylock High School. The top seven athletes will rest in preparation for the DIII New England Regional Championships on November 14. This gives the Ephs' second seven the opportunity to compete against a strong ECAC field. Williams has won nine of the past ten ECAC titles, including back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014.