Cross Country: Jumbos claim top places at first meets of the season

10/15/16 - Waterford, CT - Brian Reaney, '19, sprints to the finish line at the Connecticut College Cross Country Invitational at Harkness Memorial State Park on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts cross country program started its season with a strong performance at the Bates Invitational on Saturday with a second place finish and first place finish for the men’s and women’s teams respectively.

The men’s team, finishing with a team score of 197, trailed the first place Bates team on its home course by 70 points. The Jumbos edged out the third place WPI Goats by 43 points. Factoring in the challenge of a hilly course on a humid day combined with the fact that the Jumbos were just getting a taste of their top NESCAC competition this season, it was a solid first footing for this team of racers.

“This meet was a good first taste of how things are going this season and a nice initial benchmark for how training has been going,” junior Brian Reaney said.

Coach Michael Schmidt’s reflections on the race were similar. He alluded to his mentality of treating the Bates Invitational more like a tempo workout.

Nevertheless, the Jumbos achieved a respectable score and had several outstanding individual showings. Out of the top 10 runners whose scores contributed to the Jumbos’ team total, five athletes placed in the top 20. Tufts runners also filled out the 22nd through 27th place finishes. Junior Dylan Jones, the top finisher for Tufts, ran an eight-kilometer time of 27:04.5, followed closely by junior Colin Raposo and senior Sam Little. Sophomore Michael Carnavos and Reaney secured the 19th and 20th spots. 

Schmidt was pleased with the cohesive nature of the packs the runners held. He additionally noted a few standout runners to look out for throughout the season.

“This was Dylan Jones’ first race where he was a top runner on a varsity squad, so that was a big moment for him,” Schmidt said. “The guys right behind him, Colin [Raposo] and Sam [Little], both had really strong season openers, so those three are running really well right now.”

Just seconds behind Tufts’ top five finishers, a pack comprised of a sophomore runner, three juniors, and two first-years, claimed the 22nd through 27th places for Tufts. First-year additions to the team, Patrick Nero and Peter Horvath, were promising in their collegiate debuts.

The women’s team enjoyed solid performances from first-years Carly Curcuru and Alexandra Wolf as well, who claimed the ninth and 11th spots.

“I’m excited to try and help the team score while bettering myself in the process,” Wolf said. “We want to place well against other Div. III schools and people in our conference as well as anyone else. We want to be a team that’s top in the nation.”

Coach Kristen Morwick also looks optimistically towards the rest of the season. She is satisfied with the current standing of her team, although the race admittedly veered completely off-path from her expectations.

“Ideally what we wanted to do was go out at a fairly relaxed pace and build throughout the race. This year, our plan was spoiled because the Bates kids went out really hard,” Morwick said. “The first mile, the leaders went out at a 5:48 [mile pace], 20 seconds faster than last year, so it’s a pace we haven’t tapped into yet. Considering that, I thought we raced pretty well.”

Morwick was pleasantly surprised by personal bests from numerous runners on this hilly, challenging first course. Sophomore Lydia Heely ran exceptionally well, coming in 10th, along with Curcuru who specializes in the 800m track event but came out and ran a fast five-kilometer race.

One of the Tufts women’s cross country team’s reliable tools, of course, is their “one-two punch,” senior tri-captain Brittany Bowman and junior Natalie Bettez. Morwick points out that this power duo is looking significantly better this year. This asset to the Tufts’ cross country program is unparalleled in New England (rah-rah-rah!) and will hopefully prove advantageous for the women’s team as they go up against their top rivals this coming weekend.

Over the weekend, Bowman claimed second place, clocking in less than six seconds after the winning runner from Bates at 18:16. Bettez followed closely in third, only four seconds behind at 18:20.9.

The men’s team approaches the next invitational with the goal of having a strong pack toward the beginning of the race, according to Schmidt, and maintaining its upbeat pace throughout the entirety of the eight-kilometer course.

“We want to take the success the guys had in working as strong packs in a low-key meet atmosphere and just bring that to a much larger, more competitive atmosphere with almost 30 teams over at Williams,” Schmidt said.

Tufts cross country next competes at Mt. Greylock High School in the Purple Valley Classic, hosted by Williams College on Sept. 23.