The annual Cross Country NESCAC Championship took place on Oct. 28 at Pineland Farms in Gray, Maine. Pineland Farm does not raise elephants; otherwise there would have been loud cheers for the Jumbos. But the Jumbos had a great time running alongside farm animals: the men’s team finished in sixth place out of 11 teams overall, and the women’s team finished in third.
Although this wasn’t as strong of a finish as last year, it was still a satisfying result. Last season, the men’s team tied for third place and the women’s team finished in second. Comparing this result to previous races of this season, however, both teams kept up their competitive level. The men’s team actually finished with their second-best score record of this season.
Both teams had gone to Pineland Farm earlier in this season at their season-opening meet. During that race, the men’s team finished second out of four teams and the women’s team finished first out of four. With such familiarity with the course, both teams had an easier time setting the appropriate pace for different parts of the trail.
“The wooded area of the course looks mostly the same on a first run through, so it is nice to know where you are on the course,” junior Hiroto Watanabe said. “Knowing where you are during the race is helpful for making [a] mid-race adjustment.”
The main trail of this race is the Oak Hill Trail. Male athletes run two and a half laps around the Oak Hill Trail for a total of eight kilometers, while women athletes run one and a half laps for a total of six kilometers. For this NESCAC Championship meet, the score was calculated by the sum of the top five finishing ranks of a team (which is how a score is typically calculated in college cross country races).
First, let’s take a look at the men’s team. The Jumbos scored 161 points which put them in sixth place, the Williams College Ephs trailing by 35 points. Amherst won the Championship with only 35 points in total.
Overall, most of the runners finished in the top 60 ranks among 140 athletes in total. Junior Colin Raposo was the top runner for Tufts in this race; he ran to the finish line in 20th place with a record of 25:55.7. This record was only 48 seconds later than the first place’s record. Following him was classmate Brian Reaney, who was second for the Jumbos, coming in 28th place at 26:10.
Other than these two top finishers, five Jumbos also finished within the top 50 ranks. Excitingly, first-year athlete Dalton Tanner finished in 55th place, which was his best race this season. His record was 26:40.8. Clearly, Jumbos chose a group cooperation strategy to boost every member’s performance in this race.
“The group as a whole started more aggressively than we have in past weeks, looking to assert themselves more towards the front,” coach Michael Schmidt said. “This strategy paid off for some of the guys, and those who were not as pleased with their races gained valuable experience of feeling that harder pace from the front ahead of our regional championship.”
Moving on to the women’s cross country team, their overall score was 82. This score is just five points behind Middlebury. Williams took the champion title with 62 points overall. This result is very pleasing to the team because it will advance its national rankings.
“Beating Bates was a great day for our team. Bates was previously ranked number eight in the country so we will be moving up the national rankings,” first-year Alexandra Wolf said. “This is particularly important because it will affect our bid to go to the Div. III National Championships.”
More than half of the Jumbos (nine out of 15) finished within the top 50. Senior runner Brittany Bowman was a formidable force among the competitors, as she was the NESCAC 10,000 meter champion, and she delivered on race day. She roared to the finish line after only 22:09.8, claiming fifth place.
Junior runner Natalie Bettez ran to the finish line shoulder to shoulder with Bowman, at sixth place only 1.7 seconds later. After her, junior Olivia Barnett finished at 13th overall with a record of 22:39.8. These three runners from Tufts will earn NESCAC All-Conference honors for this season as a result of finishing within the top 14. Bowman and Bettez earn First Team honors, a repeat of last season, and Barnett is nominated to the All-NESCAC Second Team.
Pineland Farm Championship puts an end to this season’s NESCAC cross country races. In two weeks, the two teams will go to Gorham Country Club to run at the Div. III New England Regionals. And even later, on Nov. 18, the NCAA Championship will take place as the very last race of the season. If the Jumbos perform well at regionals, some runners will be eligible to compete at the NCAA Championships. For now, they will focus on the regional race in Gorham, Maine.