Cross country competes at All-New England Championships

Matt D'Anieri, '20, 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)

On an uncharacteristically warm and humid October day, the Tufts men’s and women’s cross country teams took on local and regional rivals at the All New England Championships. Running at Boston’s Franklin Park, the teams showed off their cardiovascular prowess — placing sixth of 14 and 11th of 28 in their respective competitions — as the season approached its halfway point.

“The weather definitely made it a more difficult and slower race,” junior Caitlin Porrazzo said.

Both teams agreed that the weather was not ideal, but that they managed to make the most of it.

“It was a brutally hot day, and the guys battled hard,” men’s senior co-captain Sam Little said.

Last weekend, the men competed in an 8-kilometer race at the Paul Short Invitational, hosted by Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Led by junior Colin Raposo (46th out of 217 runners), the Jumbos placed ninth of 24 entrants.

The women did not travel to Lehigh and were grateful for the week off from competition, as it provided the opportunity to have fresh legs going into the All New England Championships.

Prior to the Paul Short Invitational, both teams competed together at the Purple Valley Classic hosted by Williams on Sept. 23, after opening the season at the Bates Invitational in New Gloucester, Maine.

At Franklin Park, sophomore Matt D’Anieri led the Jumbo junior varsity men’s set on Saturday, finishing the 8-kilometer course in 26 minutes, 56 seconds. The Wellesley, Mass. native finished 20th out of the 141 runners competing, posting an average mile time of 5:26.

“We were especially impressed by the way Matt D’Anieri passed roughly 30 people in the last two miles,” Little said. “We love to see that type of grit.”

In cross country scoring, the top runners earn fewer points. D’Anieri posted just 15 points for Tufts, while those trailing towards the back of the pack were given up to 94.

Senior Tom DePalma, as well as first-years Harry Steinberg and Nic Gitter, followed not far behind D’Anieri, posting times just over 27 minutes (5:31–5:32 per mile), which was good enough for overall finishes of 37th, 38th and 40th, respectively. Their strong performances will not go unnoticed and should build early confidence that they can look to build upon in future races. Given the conditions, the fact that Tufts runners put up solid times is especially promising.

“Our expectations are to beat our rank,” Little said. “We are a young team, and a lot of people have counted us out. We want to prove them wrong and qualify for nationals.”

While UMass Lowell won the men’s meet, Tufts defeated its only NESCAC opponent (Bowdoin) and should return to campus proud of its performance.

For the women, junior Natalie Bettez stole the show for Tufts, running an 18:23 5-kilometer at 5:55 per mile and placing 11th out of 194 participants. Bettez was subsequently awarded NESCAC Performer of the Week honors.

Senior tri-captain Brittany Bowman placed 38th for the Jumbos, while another notable performance came by way of first-year Carly Curcuru, who placed 62nd. The University of New Hampshire won the women’s meet but, just as for the men, the Jumbo women finished first among the NESCAC competition.

“We raced against a number of Division I schools and other schools that we don’t compete against later in the season, so this race was less about our team’s overall finish and more about pushing ourselves on a good course just about half way through the season,” Porrazzo said. “Even though it wasn’t the best day for everyone, we have a really deep team with a lot of promising [first-years] and strong upperclassmen who have been working really hard, and that definitely showed in both the varsity and sub-varsity races.”

Both teams feature many young faces, and halfway through the season, the upperclassmen are gaining an appreciation for the time that they are getting to spend helping the younger Jumbos along. With races most Saturdays, the teams have best been able to build up their camaraderie over long runs of 10 to 17 miles on Sundays, hard workouts on Tuesdays and lifting sessions twice during the week.

“We have a pretty big [first-year] class, so it has been really great getting to know them,” Porrazzo said. “Cross country is always great because we get the opportunity to spend a lot of time with each other and run outside together.”

The Tufts men’s and women’s teams will travel to Waterford, Conn. on Saturday for the Conn. College Invitational. Senior co-captain John Greenberg is looking forward to running the course one more time in his final season.

“We are very excited for the meet on Saturday at Conn. College,” Greenberg said. “It’s a flat course, and we hope to have a lot of personal-best times. Everyone that is healthy will be competing then, so it’ll be awesome to have the entire team on the line.”