MONMOUTH, NJ – Williams men's cross-country opened their 2019 season at the Monmouth Invitational, in which the junior-senior squad finished second to St. Joseph's (Pa.), while the freshman-sophomore team finished third behind St. Joseph's and Monmouth.
Full race results can be found here.
Though it was the Ephs' first time competing in New Jersey during his 41-year tenure, Eph head coach Pete Farwell was impressed by the Monmouth course. "It was so-called flat, but it also had rough grass, some trails and some higher fields. It was real cross-country, and it was a neat course. I like real cross-country."
Instead of the typical 8K race length for NCAA men's cross-country, the Ephs competed in a 6K to open the season. Additionally, the race was divided into two halves: the junior-senior race, which took place at 9:45 AM, and the freshman-sophomore place, which began at 10:15. And in contrast to the 5-runner scoring method usually used in cross-country, only the top 3 runners on each team counted towards each team's final score.
Though they would have narrowly edged first-place St. Joseph's by a 28-30 margin had the top five runners scored, the Ephs fell 9-12 with the special rules in place. The freshman-sophomore race featured more competition with five different teams scoring, and the Ephs finished third with 26 points, just 6 behind second-place Monmouth and 8 behind first-place St. Joseph's.
Aidan Ryan '21 and Elias Lindgren '22 enjoyed particularly strong races. Ryan won the junior-senior race and recorded the fastest overall time at the entire event. Ryan's last second-kick made the difference against unattached Monmouth grad Kyle Mueller, and he won the race by exactly one second with a time of 18:29.6. That was good for a blistering pace of 4:57.6 per mile. Lindgren finished first on the Ephs and second overall with a strong time of 19:14.9, at a pace of 5:09.7 per mile.
"Aidan ended up racing side-by-side with this guy who was Monmouth's top man and only individual qualifier to the NCAA Division I cross-country finals, so quite a good runner," remarked Farwell. He sprinted neck and neck with Aidan at the finish, and Aidan got him in the last 10 meters. I think that really set the crowd off."
Though Lindgren couldn't quite repeat Ryan's kick, Farwell was still impressed. "Elias did very well. He was racing a guy who did very, very well and got out-kicked there, but he would've been in our top 7 as well."
In the junior-senior race, three Ephs – Nick Gannon '21, Sam Wischnewsky '20 and Kenneth Marshall '20 – finished in a pack in 7th, 8th and 9th, all three finishing between 19:00.9 and 19:09.8. Not far behind them was Lucas Estrada '20, who crossed the finish line in in 11th place with a time of 19:14.3.
On the freshman-sophomore side, Will Spollen '23 ran an excellent first race as an Eph, finishing in 10th place at 19:37.2.
"He's certainly one of our better freshmen, and looking very strong. He's built his mileage up. He's got true potential, and we're excited about him," Farwell said of Spollen.
Two-more first years – Caleb Dittmar '23 and Grant Gattuso '23, who finished 14th and 17th, respectively – finished in the top five, while Ryan Watson '22 rounded out the pack with a 15th-place finish. All three runners ran between 19:48.1 and 20:04.7, with Watson and Gattuso crossing the finish line just one second apart.
Assistant coach Jamie Norton was proud of the team's approach in their inaugural race. "For a lot of people, being in their first college race or their first race back in a while, they took a conservative approach to the race and moved up the field in the second half, which was nice to see." Norton also emphasized the Ephs' pack mentality and pacesetting in the junior-senior race. "They were a little more of a veteran group who established themselves in the front pack. They worked together to control the race, and getting through the middle part. It was exciting to see how strong and how close our #2 through #7 runners were."
Though the Ephs may not have won either race, they performed very well against two formidable NCAA DI teams. Next Saturday, September 14th, the Ephs will compete in their first league meet of the year, the Little Three Championships, at Wesleyan.