Bates Hosts 26th Annual Championship Meet at Pineland Farms
HADLEY, Mass. - The 2008 NESCAC Cross Country Championships will occur this Saturday and will be hosted by Bates College at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine. The 26th annual conference meet gets underway at 12:00 p.m. with the men’s 8-kilometer championship race and will be followed at 1:00 p.m. by the women’s 6-kilometer championship race.
Two-time defending men’s champion Williams has a strong shot to make it three-in-a-row. The Ephs captured last year’s conference crown in similar fashion to their 2006 title run by having multiple harriers place among the top 10 finishers. Two of the three top 10 runners from 2007 return for Williams, junior Edgar Kosgey (Eldoret Rift Valley, Kenya) and senior Brendan Christian (Chicago, Ill.). In his first NESCAC championship race a year ago, Kosgey paced his team with a third-place showing. Christian, who was third at the 2006 event, was 10 seconds behind teammate Kosgey in eighth with a time of 26:39. Both runners finished in the top 10 at Williams’ Purple Valley Classic on Sept. 27, with Kosgey leading the Ephs to the title with a first place time of 25:48. Junior Jeff Perlis (Bethesda, Md.) has had solid performances throughout the fall and may be a factor for Williams this weekend. Perlis, who placed 30th in his only championship appearance during his rookie campaign, was 10th at the Purple Valley Classic and finished second among his teammates at the Open New England race at Franklin Park in Boston with a 35th-place showing, just five seconds behind Christian.
As Williams chases a conference-record 11th men’s title, the Ephs will be challenged by a host of schools, including Amherst and Trinity. The Lord Jeffs had one of the best seasons in program history last autumn, as they were second at the NESCAC championship - the highest finish for Amherst in over 10 years - and first at the NCAA Regional Championship. Amherst’s 2007 score of 86 was only 39 points behind Williams, and the Jeffs return a strong nucleus which includes sophomore Will Yochum (Goleta, Calif.) and junior Daniel Murner (Crestwood, Ky.). Yochum claimed NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors by finishing second at last year’s championship. Murner, who finished 18th in 2007, joined Yochum in the top five at the Purple Valley Classic as Amherst placed second. Trinity came in fourth for the second year in a row at the 2007 NESCAC championship with a score of 109. The Bantams have a good mix of veteran leadership and promising rookies this season that could help their team crack the top three for the first time since 2001. Senior co-captains Sam Moorhead (Dedham, Mass.) and Hunter Norte (Ellington, Conn.) have guided Trinity to four top-five finishes this season. Moorhead was the top finisher for the Bantams at last year’s championship, placing fourth, while Norte, the 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2006 Most Outstanding Performer, looks to improve after finishing 18th. Freshman Michael Burstein (Brookline, Mass.) has been impressive in his first year with the Bantams, including a seventh-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational at Hanover on Oct. 4.
While the race for the conference crown might be close, the men’s individual championship may hold few surprises. Hamilton junior Peter Kosgei (Kapsabet, Kenya) returns to defend the 2007 title he won by 29 seconds. Kosgei has been dominant during his time with the Continentals, winning 15 out of 16 varsity races and falling short at the lone meet - the 2007 NCAA Championship - with a second-place performance. Those chasing Kosgei this weekend will include Yochum of Amherst, Moorehead and Norte of Trinity, Kosgey of Williams, and Tufts junior Jesse Faller (Burlington, Mass.). Faller, 12th at the conference meet last fall, has led the Jumbos this season with a first place finish at the 41st annual Codfish Bowl on Sept. 27 and completed the Open New England race as the top NESCAC harrier in sixth.
On the women’s side, Amherst rolled to its second consecutive conference crown last year with a score of 37, 40 points ahead of second-place Williams. The defending NESCAC and NCAA champion Jeffs may be hard-pressed to achieve a repeat performance this weekend, as they graduated three of their top-five finishers from 2007, including Most Outstanding Performer Heather Wilson. Leading the way in 2008 has been senior Elise Tropiano (Plainview, N.Y.). After finishing as the top NESCAC runner at last year’s Purple Valley Classic (2nd), Tropiano returned on Sept. 27 and won the 6-kilometer race in a time of 22:01. She also completed the Open New England meet at Franklin Park on Oct. 11 as the top NESCAC runner for the second-straight year, improving on her sixth-place finish in 2007 with a second-place showing. During last year’s conference championship, Tropiano came in seventh on the course at Mt. Greylock in Williamstown, Mass.
Challengers to Amherst’s title defense will include Middlebury and Williams. The three teams have combined to win the last 12 NESCAC titles, Middlebury with five outright, Williams with four, Amherst with the last two, and Middlebury and Williams sharing the 2004 crown. At last year’s league meet, Williams was second with 77 points while Middlebury was fourth with 124. The Ephs look primed to win their first NESCAC title since 2005 and 11th overall this weekend thanks to strong performances throughout the fall, including winning the Purple Valley Classic and being the top NESCAC team at Open New Englands in third overall. Lauren Philbrook (Hopkinton, Mass.) is in the midst of a stellar senior year. Although Philbrook was 19th at the 2007 championship, she has put forth top performances for Williams at the Purple Valley Classic (3rd) and at Open New Englands (17th). Junior Brett Scofield (Orinda, Calif.) has also enjoyed a spectacular fall for the Ephs and could shave significant seconds off her 2007 time of 24:10 (45th). The Panthers, meanwhile, will be in search of their first outright title since 2003. Middlebury has fared well in 2008, including finishing second at the Purple Valley Classic and sixth at Open New Englands, second only to Williams among conference squads. Senior Alexandra Krieg (Wellesley, Mass.) has performed consistently once again this season for the Panthers. Krieg won the Panther Invitational for the second year in a row on Sept. 20 and was the top finisher for Middlebury at both the Purple Valley Classic (2nd) and the Open New England event (7th). Krieg placed 10th at the 2006 championship and was fifth in 2007.
The quest for the women’s individual title will be wide open, as the top four finishers from last year are gone. Krieg from Middlebury and Tropiano from Amherst are the only two returning runners out of the 2007 top eight, as Krieg completed the meet 21 seconds ahead of Tropiano. Along with Williams’ Philbrook and the rest of the field, watch for Tufts sophomore Stephanie McNamara (North Attleborough, Mass.) to challenge for the individual crown. McNamara has been sensational for the Jumbos this fall, winning three races and placing sixth at Open New Englands.
Located in the rolling hills of New Gloucester, Maine, Pineland Farms is a 5,000-acre working farm, diverse business campus and educational and recreational venue that welcomes visitors to enjoy its beautiful rural landscape. The natural terrain at Pineland Farms offers an excellent venue for cross country events and spiked shoes are recommended for competitors. Pineland Farms is now in its second season serving as the home course for the Bates cross country teams. As Pineland Farms is a working farm with livestock, no dogs are allowed at the site.
Results from the NESCAC Cross Country Championships will be available on Saturday evening at www.nescac.com.