Middletown, CT—The Williams men's cross country team added to their Little Three winning streak Saturday, with their 29th consecutive title over Amherst and Wesleyan, this year's host.
Although Williams, currently ranked 3rd nationally in the latest USTFCCCA poll, entered this meet as the favorite, they faced tough competition from both Amherst—currently ranked 8th nationally—and Wesleyan. In a very tight race in which the end result did not become obvious until the last mile, Williams eventually pulled away with a score of 25 points to Amherst's 42. Wesleyan was 3rd, with 74 points.
The 8-kilometer race went out quickly for a lead pack of four runners, including Ephs' Ben Decker '18 and captain Peter Hale '17. Behind them, a sizeable chase pack formed, with a dozen Amherst harriers, several Ephs, and a few Wesleyan athletes. Up front, Decker, Hale and Amherst junior Mohamed Hussein, a several-time All-American and the race's presumptive favorite, traded blows for nearly the entire race. Going up the final hill, Hale moved ahead, and held off Hussein in the last stretch with a big kick, running 25:08 to Hussein's 25:13. Decker finished next in 25:24.
"Peter ran a great race today, and beat a fantastic runner in Hussein," said Coach Pete Farwell. "He and Ben are looking great heading into our championship races."
Behind the leaders, the team score was still in doubt late in the race, with the chase pack of five Ephs and ten Amherst harriers holding together through 3 miles. Showcasing their quality of depth, the Ephs, led by Liam Simpson '18, were the ones to make the decisive surge. Simpson finished in 6th overall in 25:48, followed by Griffin Colaizzi '18, who finished in 7th in 26:00. Battling and eventually overcoming Amherst runners, captain Noah Williams '17 came in 8th in 26:03, closely followed by Austin Anderson '19, running 26:04 for 9th place. Zeke Cohen '19 rounded out the scoring for the Ephs, finishing in 11th place in 26:06.
"Our two sophomores in particular stepped up today. We have had a pretty established top 5 group of runners, but Austin has done very well to close that gap these last couple of races, and Zeke stepped up today as seventh man when we didn't have a couple of our other guys," said Farwell.
Farwell was pleased with his team's performance. "These last few years, Little Threes has become extremely competitive. This year in particular was a real duel for the championship. This kind of competition brings out the best of all teams, and sharpens us for the competition at later championship meets.
Beyond the top runners, a pack of first years ran extremely well. After Ryan Cox '20 finished In 26:33 for 17th overall, seven other first-years who ran in a pack for much of the race finished within 18 seconds of each other. These included Tristan Colaizzi '20 (26:57, 24th), Peter Kirgis '20 (26:58, 25th), Sam Wischnewsky '20 (27:05, 26th), Isaac Goodman '20 (27:08, 27th), Nick Gannon '20 (27:11, 28th), Kenneth Marshall '20 (27:13, 30th), and William McGovern '20 (27:15, 32nd). Farwell was ecstatic about his first-years' performances, saying "We had an amazing freshmen pack. To have so many runners so close to each other, each running so fast on a tough course, bodes very well for the future."
Many Ephs will finish their season next Saturday at the Plansky Invitational. For this meet at Mt. Greylock Regional High School, the Ephs welcome back alumni to compete against current team members. Meanwhile, the top 12 athletes will continue training for the NESCAC Championships, hosted by Colby on October 29.