In its second meet of the season, Tufts took on 15 other teams at last Saturday’s Purple Valley Classic hosted by Williams at Mt. Greylock High School in Williamstown, Mass. and finished a respectable seventh.
Tufts totaled a score of 235, which trumped WPI’s 247 points, but came just 10 points short of Conn. College. RPI, ranked sixth nationally, scored 41 points to claim the victory over host Williams (72 points).
Though the runners hoped for a better finish, the season is young and many runners are still learning the lay of the land. Saturday’s course was a muddy mess, making hills challenging to navigate.
“[The course] is a series of field loops and wood loops with hills mixed in between,” senior co-captain Dylan Jones said. “Greylock in western Mass. is a really lovely area, but it certainly was a bit muddier this time compared to what we’ve been used to. It was definitely one of the more challenging courses we’ve experienced.”
The top three finishes for the Jumbos were Jones (26:57.0) and fellow senior co-captains Brian Reaney (27:05.5) and Colin Raposo (27:12.5), who scored 33, 41 and 46 points respectively. The next four runners were sophomore Peter Horvath (27:32.7), first-year John “Jack” Cyprus (27:40.1), and seniors Rory Buckman (27:44.0) and Tom Doyle (27:48.9).
Jones explained that the team is preparing to race well against Williams, Middlebury, Amherst and MIT, who finished second, third, fourth and fifth respectively on Saturday. Tufts was specifically keeping track of Conn. College and Williams jerseys at the Purple Valley Classic, with an emphasis on always showing them the backs of their bibs. Paying attention to these teams can provide insight into what NESCAC competition has in store for the Jumbos. The Purple Valley Classic mainly also served as an evaluation of fitness levels, according to Jones.
“People are still training really hard and being bolder than last year in terms of how they’ve been trying to race,” Jones said. “I think people went out bold. People wanted to really show what they had, and just because it didn’t stick doesn’t mean it won’t later on in the season.”
The Jumbos saw this meet as an opportunity to improve. A seventh-place finish left much to be desired against competition that in their minds was within reach.
“It’s not a huge disappointment,” Reaney said. “I think it just shows us that there’s definitely work that we need to be doing. Even if we’re doing hard workouts and it leaves us tired for races, we still recognize that in the long-term, it’s a good thing.”
Adding onto his reflections on the race, Reaney believes that despite any feelings of dissatisfaction, there are always individual performances that deserve to be acknowledged.
“[First-years] Sam Gatti and Collin O’Sullivan, the winner of the [five-kilometer] race, were up there too, which was great,” Reaney said. “It’s nice when you see [first-years] doing well, because I think they encourage each other that they’re capable of being at the front.”
Gatti had a notable performance in the 8K, finishing eighth overall for the Jumbos, no more than a second behind Doyle.
Earlier in the day, Tufts also competed in the 5K race. O’Sullivan scored eight points in as he finished first for the Jumbos with a time of 17:14.9. Less than 13 seconds later, junior Dylan McEniry crossed the finish line for 10 points, followed by junior Roman Lovell who scored 17 points with a record of 17:47.4. To round out Tufts’ top six in the 5K were first-year Nick Delaney and sophomores Aiden Lewis and Joe Barbaro.
One of the team’s strengths this season is their dynamic combination of young runners with good energy as well as senior runners who take their mark time and time again without fail. For instance, Jones has placed first for the Jumbos in both of the meets this season.
“I think my fitness is better than it has been in years past,” Jones said. “I had a solid outdoor track season which can lead to good performances in cross country, so I feel a lot more comfortable racing this year. Because it’s senior year and my last cross country season, I think every race is a little bit more important and meaningful, and I think all that combined is making me perform a bit better, and it’s making me more excited about each race.”
Reaney also feels good about his last season on this team. His first race this past weekend was a strong one, and he hopes to only improve.
“I had better summer training, which was nice and gave me some more confidence,” Reaney said. “My time at this course was faster than it was the past couple of years. I hope that in the future, as we get toward the end of the season, I can be closer to the lead pack rather than sort of fighting in the middle of the race.”
A perfect opportunity for the Jumbos to work on being bold and getting out towards the leading pack will be the Paul Short Run at Lehigh this Saturday.
“At the Paul Short race, we will see a lot of the same teams as we did at Williams,” Reaney said. “When we’re in that race, those are the jerseys we are looking for — sort of the battles that we are fighting, as we sometimes put it. The better we can do against those teams now, the better that will reflect on us later in the season.”