Nichols and O’Connor shatter Tufts record at Paul Short Invitational

The men's team race at the NESCAC championship in Middlebury, VT. Luke O'Connor on the finishing stretch (Annie Levine / The Tufts Daily)

With nine out of the 10 competing runners breaking personal records at the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University, men’s cross country displayed vast improvement in placing 25th out of 38 competing teams. Tufts finished with a total score of 748.

Both senior co-captains Luke O’Connor and Tim Nichols broke not only personal record times but also program records. Nichols ran a 23:58, smashing the Tufts program record for the 8 km race and O’Connor ran the second fastest time in program history at 24:24. Nichols placed 14th overall and O’Connor placed 47th overall out of the 336 runners who competed. In the two races they have competed in this season, Nichols and O’Connor placed first and second respectively for Tufts both times. 

Nichols earned NESCAC Men’s Cross Country Performer of the Week honors for his performance. This was the third weekly honor of Nichols’ college career, as he was previously honored for cross country on Sept. 19 this fall and for track and field on April 11 this past spring.

“[Nichols] was leagues ahead of me from the start, which I was fine with,” O’Connor said. “Because it was such a top-heavy race, I was at the end of the lead pack and I just thought to myself, ‘I’m going to keep going, keep pushing and go as fast as I can.’ While racing I actually didn’t know my times at all, and I was just doing my best to move up through the field.”

Iona College clinched first place with a total team score of 34 points, as four of their runners ranked within the top 10 overall. Georgetown placed second with 115 points, Adams State netted 142 points for third place and University of Pennsylvania clinched fourth place with 146 points.

Tufts’ success at the Paul Short Invitational is a promising forecast for the rest of the season, considering the high caliber of talent that competed there.

“We just knew that it would be a really good chance to go out and have some really fast times because historically, it has been a really fast course,” O’Connor said. “At this invitational we competed against the best competition we are going to see until Nationals, maybe even better than that. We were all just going out gunning for the best times we could and really just taking in the experience.”

The third scorer for Tufts, sophomore Andrew Doherty Munro, beat his personal record by almost a minute, running a 25:54 and placing 217th overall. Sophomore Dylan Jones was Tufts’ fourth finisher, running a 26:08. Senior Michael Caughron was Tufts’ fifth at 26:10. While the team was happy with the improving times of each runner, it still hopes to narrow the gap between the second and third finishers. This is an adjustment the team needed to make last year and did so successfully, and they are confident that they will be able to do it again.

The 8 km course proved to be a fast one, which was a contributing factor to the team’s multiple personal records. The difference between both O’Connor’s and Nichols’ times on this course and the course at Bates were about 70 seconds each.

Only the team’s top 10 runners competed at this invitational. The non-scoring runners impressed with their times as well. Sophomore James Gregoire ran 26:19, with classmate Christian Swenson right on his heels at 26:20. Sophomore Tom Doyle’s time of 26:43 was sandwiched between junior Sam Little’s 26:21 and sophomore Rory Buckman’s 26:54.

Looking forward, the team hopes to get as many runners as possible closer to hitting the 25:40 mark. According to Little, the Jumbos would also like to start taking better advantage of the particular courses they are running, seeing as they will continue to face fast courses in the upcoming weeks.

“As a team, we are continually building on each performance so that we can have our best races at the end,” Little said. “It’s super exciting to have [Nichols] and [O’Connor] run so well early on in the season because we know we are going to keep getting better from here.”

The Jumbos will compete next weekend on Oct. 8 at the James Earley Invitational at Westfield State University.