Williamstown, MA—The Williams men's cross country team heads to Gorham, Maine this Saturday to compete in the 2017 NCAA New England Regional Championship, hosted by the University of Southern Maine.
While a championship meet in its own right, the meet serves as the qualifying meet for the NCAA Championship on November 17th, with the top 2 teams in each of the 8 regionals winning automatic bids, and 16 at-large bids delegated according to the NCAA's discretion. Last year, the New England region received 2 at-large bids, sending 4 teams in total.
Williams usually enters this meet as the favorite or co-favorite. This year, however, due to an unfortunate string of ill-timed injury and illness, the Ephs enter this meet ranked 5th in the region, behind Amherst, MIT, Middlebury, and Bates, respectively. At the NESCAC Championship two weeks before, Williams finished 5th, behind the aforementioned NESCAC teams and Connecticut College.
Despite these setbacks, the Ephs are looking forward, with the group racing this weekend healthy and ascendant. Three of the four co-captains, Liam Simpson '18, Griffin Colaizzi '18, and Ben Decker '18 will toe the line on Saturday. Simpson has been absolutely dependable for the Ephs this year, serving as the top man in every meet for the last month, fresh off of a 9th place finish at the NESCAC Championship, his best finish ever. The Ephs are excited to welcome back a healthy Colaizzi to the championship lineup. Despite missing months of running due to an injury, Colaizzi's diligent cross training has paid off, and after a 60th place showing at the NESCAC Championship, Colaizzi looks stronger by the day. Shaking off the last vestiges of illness, Decker looks poised to greatly help the Ephs, and could even match his performance at the Regional last year, when he finished 6th overall.
A strong group of runners will also compete this Saturday, each capable of breakout performances. Fresh off a tremendous 15th place finish at the NESCAC Championship, Ryan Cox '20 will toe the line Saturday. Last year, Cox finished 44th at the regional, and 4th among first-years. Cox will be joined by Mitchell Morris '19, Peter Kirgis '20, and first-year Aidan Ryan '21. While none of these three have competed so far into the postseason before, all are prepared for great performances. Morris has been Williams' 3rd or 4th man all season, and will be racing in his home state. Kirgis, a Track and Field All-American, has been dependable all season as Williams' 5th man, and is well-suited for the fast race on Saturday. Ryan has run the fastest 8k for the Ephs this year and is ready to continue a fantastic first year.
Head Coach Pete Farwell is excited for the championship, calling it "a great regionals competition with the top 4 NESCAC teams and MIT. We have better health among our runners now, and we hope to have 2 or 3 in the top group, 2 or 3 more in the next group, and very strong backups. All of our top 7 (and even our next 2) have been training well together since NESCACs. The course has some rolling hills and one major one—it's real cross country, and that's what we prefer and excel at."
The Ephs will be looking to surprise their competitors. Their rivals--particularly Amherst, MIT, and Middlebury--are all strong opponents, but Williams looks poised to compete well, finish strong, and qualify for the NCAA meet for the 12th straight year.