Waterville, ME—On Saturday, the Williams men's cross country team travelled to Colby College for the 2016 NESCAC Championships. The Ephs, currently ranked 3rd in the latest national rankings, are one of five NESCAC teams nationally ranked. The other four include Amherst (8th), Colby (14th), Middlebury (21st), and Connecticut College (31st).
Tufts' Tim Nichols '17 broke away from the field early on and won the 8-kilometer race in 24:58. He was followed by his teammate, Luke O'Connor '17, who finished in 25:27. Colby's David Chelimo '17 finished 3rd in 25:33. Captain Peter Hale '17, usually one of the top Eph harriers, had to miss the meet due to a minor calf injury, but Ben Decker '18 ran well in his absence, leading the chase pack at times and finishing 7th in 26:11, first for the Ephs.
Adeptly negotiating the muddy turns and constant hills on the course, the Ephs behind Decker moved up well as the race progressed. "About halfway through the race, I counted our guys as scoring about 160 points based on our position then, which would have put us in about 6th or 7th. But we carried out our race plan and really started moving up after the big hill at 3 miles," said head coach Pete Farwell. Moving around packs rather than within them, each Eph bore down in the final miles, eventually edging Amherst with 83 points to their 100. Middlebury and Tufts tied for 3rd place with 126 points each.
Said Farwell, "This win certainly came tough. We had the challenge of running without Peter Hale, as well as some of our other guys that comprise our depth, but the team responded to the challenge. With this kind of difficult, punishing course added on, that made this victory hard-earned, but well-deserved."
Decker was joined in All-NESCAC honors by his teammate Liam Simpson '18. Simpson finished in 26:21 for 12th overall. Simpson was followed by Austin Anderson '19, who moved up relentlessly in the final 2 miles to finish in 26:32 for 19th overall. "Austin was incredible, and moved up extraordinarily well. He's a verified runner in our top pack." Right behind Anderson came Griffin Colaizzi '18, kicking hard for 26:32 and 20th place. Rounding out the scoring 5 was captain Noah Williams '17, who ran 26:41 for 25th place.
After Williams followed first-year Ryan Cox '20, who ran 26:57 (33rd), and Zeke Cohen '19, who ran 27:04 (37th). Farwell had particular praise for Cox and fellow first-year Peter Kirgis, who finished eighth for the Ephs, running 27:22 (57th). "Ryan and Peter ran better than they have all season and rose to the occasion. These were breakthrough 8ks for them, and it really bodes well for next years' running."
Behind Kirgis, a strong corps of runners rounded out Williams' performance. Luke Hinz '17 ran 27:57 (79th), followed by captain Nigel Bates '17 in 28:10 (88rd) and first-year Isaac Goodman, who ran 28:40 (106th).
Next Sunday, some of the runners not in the top 7 will compete at the USA Track and Field Cross Country New England Championships at Franklin Park, MA, near Boston. The top runners will rest in preparations for the NCAA Northeast Regional at Westfield State, MA, on November 12.