Men’s cross country demonstrates strength in numbers, secures fourth at Conn. College Invitational

Senior co-captain Colin Raposo strides forward at the Purple Valley Classic in Williamstown, Mass. on Sept. 22. Madeleine Oliver / Tufts Cross Country

Tufts bested four NESCAC schools at this weekend’s Conn. College Invitational in Waterford, Conn. — including its host — to secure fourth of 27 competing teams.

The Jumbos received strong performances from a number of runners, with many finishing within seconds of each other.

Senior co-captain Colin Raposo led the pack for Tufts, finishing i13th overall (25:21.6). Behind him was fellow senior co-captain Dylan Jones, who crossed the finish line in 25:36.0, good for 23rd overall. Seniors Andrew Doherty Munro (25:40.7), Rory Buckman (25:49.0) and Hiroto Watanabe (25:54.7) rounded out the team’s top five, respectively.

As they anticipated prior to the season, the Jumbos have received strong contributions from  their experienced group of seniors. However, the team’s younger members have also impressed. First-year John Cyprus finished just a few seconds behind Watanabe to claim 51st with a time of 26:01.4. Sophomore Peter Horvath rounded out Tufts’ top seven, finishing 65th with a time of 26:08.5.

Raposo and Jones described the course, which looped around 19th-century industrial beach houses, as relatively flat with solid footing. The meet took place at Harkness State Park, which was exposed to the ocean. Coupled with challenging weather, conditions were muddy and slightly tricky. However, according to Buckman, the mud posed no encumbrance relative to last year’s torrential downpour at the same event and subsequent six inches of mud.

“There are parts [of the course] where you can really get moving,” Buckman said. “I think the team ran super well in terms of [understanding the course]. We’ve had a number of really tough courses earlier in the season, but on Saturday we were able to put it all together and have a really good performance.”

Buckman said that the team was pleased with its fourth-place showing. Tufts came out on top against higher-ranked teams, namely Conn. College, Dickinson and St. Thomas in Minnesota. Tufts finished with a total of 136 points, behind NESCAC rivals Middlebury (96), Williams (76) and Invitational champion Amherst (72).

While the Jumbos are focused on competing with their NESCAC rivals, they also have an eye on the national competition.

“Beating Dickinson and St. Thomas were good victories for us,” Raposo said. “[They] show strongly for both us and the region as a whole going into that Nationals selection process.”

Jones said that before this weekend, the team had been unable to outperform teams that it expects to beat, including Conn. College and Bates.

“It felt like a major turning point in the season that we finally had a meet that definitively showed we are a better team than them,” Jones said.

Buckman explained that his teammates supported him over the course of the 8,000-meter race.

“I was actually leading the race for the first half mile or so,” Buckman said. “I looked back and my teammates — Colin [Raposo], Dylan [Jones] and Andrew [Doherty Munro] — were all right with me, so that was super comforting. Throughout most of the race, I was running close to Andrew and Dylan, so working with those guys … was super good for me just because I’ve worked out with them for the past four years. Andrew said some words to me during the race to keep me going, so that was super helpful.”

Another advantageous effect of Tufts’ front pack sticking together was the runners’ ability to locate their teammates in the pack, according to Jones.

“I was 10 to 15 seconds behind Colin, and I think Rory and Andrew could see me the whole time as well, so we didn’t lose connection with each other,” Jones said. “I think that certainly benefited everyone and carried everyone along.”

Buckman said that it was nice seeing Raposo finish with the Jumbos’ best time.

“I think it speaks really good volumes that Colin was our top runner this week,” Buckman said. “Come NESCACs, hopefully both [Raposo and Jones] are right up there together, and then Andrew and I won’t be too far back as well.”

Jones noted his excitement regarding the team’s potential as it prepares for Nationals.

“I don’t think the team has felt this optimistic in a long time,” he said. “These next two weeks, we are going to do less mileage but do more quality workouts that are quicker and help to, we use the term, ‘sharpen us’ for racing … Also, we are all growing facial hair and can’t stop. We look disgusting. It’s going to get grosser before it gets better, but it’s a fun [tradition] we do to get ready for the end of the season.”

The Jumbos will return to action on Oct. 27 at Franklin Park in Boston, site of the NESCAC Championships. The Jumbos performed admirably at Franklin Park two weeks ago at the All-New England Championships, claiming third place among 14 competitors.