The Tufts men’s cross country team finished second at the ECAC Div. III Championship meet for the second year in a row on Saturday. Tufts historically fields a deep cross country roster and this year was no different, as those who competed in the ECAC meet were all part of the team’s second seven (runners eight through 14). While the first four spots on the team were decided early on, it has taken almost until this point in the season for the spots five through 14 to be decided because the chase pack for Tufts is so talented.
The ECAC Championship is not a meet by which Tufts judges its season. However, there was special emphasis on winning the race this year because Tufts felt they could knock Williams out of its top spot. The Ephs, however, won the race with a score of 57, with the Jumbos finishing only fourteen points behind at 71.
Tufts Junior Michael Curley explained the significance of the ECAC meet.
“ECACs for us usually has two purposes,” Curley said. “One is to showcase our depth, show that aside from our top seven, we have more people who are right around there and still really good and competitive in the NESCAC. I think we showed that on Saturday … we were only 14 points off [Williams], which is really good. The second goal is to build momentum going into the postseason. ECACs is the first real postseason race in terms of getting into the end of the season, so its good for the second seven guys to build some momentum and get the top seven guys pumped up to run well at Regionals.”
Curley finished second for Tufts and seventh overall out of the field of 303 runners with a personal record time of 25:56. Senior Joe St. Pierre ran a 25:51, the best time of his career, good for fourth place overall in what could be his last cross country race as a Jumbo. Junior James Traestor finished with a personal record 26:07 and won 13th place. For finishing in the top 15, St. Pierre, Curley and Traestor earned All-ECAC honors, while sophomore Bobby McLaughlin crossed the line in 26:14 for 18th place.
“We had four [All-ECAC runners] last year, we were hoping to get a fourth guy in there,” Traestor said. “Bobby [McLaughlin] missed it … but we were all right there.”
Curley believes that having three runners in the top 15 exhibits the Jumbos’ depth.
“I think it’s something that reflects not just on me personally, but on the team as a whole. Having three guys up in that top pack just shows our depth outside of the top seven. I think that’s something that Tufts does particularly better than other schools,” Curley said.
The race was held in Stanley Park at Westfield State University and the conditions for running were ideal. Five of the seven Tufts runners, Curley, St. Pierre, Traestor, McLaughlin and sophomore Michael Caughron, set personal records.
“The course was especially in great shape, it was the best I’ve ever seen it,” Traestor said. “I raced there a lot in high school. The ground was compact throughout the field loops, which is crucial. The dirt in the trails was also well groomed.”
Traestor believed the course was ideal for St. Pierre to run the way he did. The fact that there were no hills allowed St. Pierre to start fast and allow his momentum to carry him.
“I think St. Pierre really had the race of his career,” Traestor said. “He knew that could be his last race [and] he didn’t want it to be. He wanted to get the alternate spot for regionals and nationals. He just ran really ballsy and got out there. Curley and [St. Pierre] were leading for a lot of [the race].”
Senior Sam Garfield finished 29th overall with a time of 26:29 and was the final point scorer for Tufts. First-year Sam Little and sophomore Michael Caughron crossed the line 58th and 61st respectively, separated by only two seconds. The Jumbos did not utilize their usual packing strategy, but instead worked together in small groups. St. Pierre and Curley ran closely together and led the majority of the race before they were overtaken in the last mile. Traestor said that the Bates College team packed together early and started aggressively, running close behind St. Pierre and Curley, but that they imploded due to their overly ambitious start.
Though the Jumbos would have preferred to beat Williams, closing the gap and running extremely well at the ECAC meet was a solid consolation prize. St. Pierre’s inspiring run and the personal records set by most of the runners should provide even more motivation for the Jumbos’ first seven at regionals. For many teams, cross country season is winding down, but the Jumbos hope their momentum and late season improvement will carry them deep into the postseason.