The men’s cross country team faced off against Division I, II and III teams in the All-New England Championships at Franklin Park on Saturday, but the Jumbos didn’t let that faze them as they earned a 20th-place finish in a field of 47 teams.
Senior Jesse Faller led the way for Tufts, finishing the 8K race in 25:14 to claim 19th place. With No. 2 runner and senior captain Nick Welch resting, freshman Matt Rand stepped up to fill the void for the Jumbos. Rand finished in 103rd place with a time of 26:14, while junior Jeff Ragazzini and senior Ryan Lena were right on his heels, finishing in 107th and 110th place, respectively.
“The course was a little soft, and guys like Matt and Ryan both really gutted it out by working it out in big packs, moving it up when they needed to and staying aggressive through the third and fourth miles,” assistant coach Mark Carberry said.
“Matt Rand [has] been sick at least the past week if not more, but he just had a really gutsy race,” he continued. “Knowing that he’s a little bit under the weather, he still really pulled through.”
Though he was the third runner for Tufts at this race last year, Lena improved on his time by 17 seconds.
“For a kid who’s still working and building on his base training, [Lena] had a great closing mile and looked really smooth all throughout the race,” Carberry added.
“The strategy going in was pretty much to get out hard and just try and move up throughout the race,” Lena said. “I myself was focusing on the middle miles, not lagging in that part of the race, and it played out pretty well overall.
“It was definitely an improvement over last year,” continued Lena, who ran an 8K personal best over the weekend.
Rounding out the scorers for Tufts was freshmen Kyle Marks in 26:53, claiming 181st place. Though the Jumbos fell one spot from their finish last year, they were pleased with the results, particularly considering the absence of Welch.
“I think this was a great step in the right direction for where we see ourselves by the end of the season,” Carberry said. “Considering our No. 2 guy was on the shelf for the weekend, we are right where we want to be on the conference level, as well as on the regional level. We see ourselves with Nick [Welch] in the bunch as being at or with the top people in the region; that’s Brandeis, Williams, Amherst. We think that we can be right with them when push comes to shove. “
“We were resting Nick, so we didn’t do as well as we could have,” Lena added. “But the freshmen really kicked it up so we were able to do pretty well overall … we were seventh out of Division III teams, but it was really close with the teams ahead of us, and if we had run Nick, we would have probably gotten third.”
In a field of 320 runners from all three divisions, the race dynamic changes significantly from the smaller meets earlier in the season.
“[In larger races like this], you can’t really tell where you are in the race, which affects your strategy in the middle miles and your strategy towards the end in terms of kicking and knowing when to go,” Lena said. “The hardest part is just knowing where you are.”
Leading the way for the Jumbos in the sub-varsity race was sophomore Scott McArthur, who took 15th, crossing the line 26:35, a time that would have taken 144th place in the varsity race and would have made him the fifth finisher for Tufts.
“In the JV race, Scott McArthur really had one of the most outstanding performances of the day,” Lena said.
McArthur’s time was 2:21 faster than at the same race last year, moving him up 177 places in the sub-varsity race.
“For Scott to be in the front pack of the sub-varsity race, that means you really have to be aware of when the guys in front of you are going to move, and he was able to counter all of those moves very effectively,” Carberry said.
“I wanted to set myself in a position so that I’d be passing people the entire race,” McArthur said. “I think in the last three miles I moved up about 15 places and didn’t get passed by anyone.
“Last year I was running in the middle of the pack, and this year I felt like I was helping to lead to rest of the JV team,” he continued. “It was an improvement from last year that I never would have expected.”
The Jumbos will travel to Williams on Saturday to take part in another 8K at the Plansky Invitational.
“We’re looking to go into Plansky and send our top 12 and have a good tempo effort in the form of keeping everyone together, remembering what it’s like to run together,” Carberry said.
“We’re only running our top 12, our NESCAC team,” Lena said. “Williams will be there, so that will be a good test of how we run against other NESCAC teams.”