Younger runners gain experience at Purple Valley Classic

Tufts placed 14th out of 23 teams on Saturday at the Purple Valley Classic in Williamstown, Mass. The Jumbos finished with 429 points, eight points behind the 13th place Norwich Cadets. SUNY Geneseo won the eight-kilometer race with a total of just 48 points.

Sophomore Brian Reaney placed highest for the Jumbos in the 8,000-meter race, finishing in 27:23.9, good for 98th place out of 284 participants. The rest of the team was not far behind. Sophomore Brian Djerf finished in 119th place (27:37.2), while his classmate Colin Raposo earned the 129th overall finish, crossing at 27:45.3. First-year Michael Carnavos rounded out Tufts’ scorers with a time of 28:04.1. Carnavos finished in 148th place.

Sophomore Dylan Jones was impressed with how a lot of the team ran.

“Reaney, Djerf and Raposo all had great races which is really great to see.” Jones said. “We have a deep team, which was important this week.”

Though the finish in this meet was not as high as Tufts had hoped for, there was strategy behind the team’s performance.

“We rested our top 10 this week to … prepare for next week’s meet at Lehigh.” sophomore Christian Swenson said. “It is important to rest some meets and prepare for the end of the season as well. The team is looking good, and everyone is getting better week to week.”

During the season, each race has to be carefully planned out in terms of who competes so as not to burn out top runners.

“Some of the guys’ race plans just dictated that this would be an off weekend,” coach Joel Williams said. “The nature of our sport dictates that you can’t race every weekend. As great of a meet as Purple Valley is, our top guys just weren’t scheduled to race this weekend.”

The Purple Valley Classic course is considered very difficult. During the 8,000-meter race, contestants must run over a very large hill twice, which often results in slower course times for runners. A tough course means tough results and tough training, but it is also an opportunity for the runners to try their skills on different terrain. The course is near Williamstown, which gives rival Williams College runners something of a “home-field advantage,” which was apparent in the results.

“Overall, we are pretty satisfied with the team performance,” Williams said. “These rolling hills in Berkshire County make for a very challenging course. There were a few guys making their 2016 debut and that course more than gets them prepared for the rest of the season. The hills provide great training opportunities, and it is important for the younger guys to get reps on the course, as it is a possible future regional championship location.”

Sophomore Hiroto Watanabe really stood out during the 5,000-meter race, which also occurs at the Purple Valley Classic. Watanabe ran the course in a blistering 16:35.9, resulting in a ninth place finish, Tufts’ highest of the day. Watanabe was only topped by a group of first-years from Williams, a perennial NCAA contender. The next closest Jumbo, junior Tom DePalma, finished in 22nd place (17:29).

“[Watanabe] ran very well, especially considering his main event is the 800 [in track].” Swenson said. “This is a long distance for him, but he was able to do it really well, which is awesome.”

Positive results at early meets instill confidence in the team, and the entire squad is excited about the upcoming meets. The team emphasizes improvement every day, encouraging and pacing each other and striving for personal bests both in practice and in meets.

“The hope is that we continue to improve our fitness and race readiness.” Williams said. “We do a great job of running together and sharing the work. That’s something that will pay off once we start preparing for racing season.”

The Jumbos’ next meet is on Saturday at the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.