Cross Country Championships Take Place Sunday

Trinity Hosts 27th Annual Championship Meet at Wickham Park

HADLEY, Mass. – Trinity College will host the 2009 NESCAC Cross Country Championships this Sunday afternoon at Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn. The 27th annual conference meet commences at 12:00 p.m. with the start of the women’s 6-kilometer championship race and will be followed at 1:00 p.m. by the men’s 8-kilometer race.

After sharing the women’s title in 2004, Middlebury and Williams tied for the 2008 championship at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine, with identical scores of 48. The two teams ran away from the rest of the field as they distanced themselves from third place Colby by 77 points and combined to have six of the top 10 finishers at the race. The Panthers eventually went on to win their fifth NCAA crown while the Ephs finished third. This year, both Middlebury and Williams have once again enjoyed successful fall seasons. Middlebury claimed first place at the Panther Invitational on Sept. 19 while Williams was just behind in second. Two weeks later at the Williams Invitational, the Ephs edged the Panthers for second overall by 14 points. At the Open New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston, Mass., Williams was the top NESCAC squad as the Ephs finished seventh overall with a team score of 242. Leading the way for Williams during the New England Championships was first year harrier Jennifer Gossels (Sudbury, Mass.) and senior Bret Scofield (Orinda, Calif.). Gossels had a team-best time of 18:35 to place 26th overall while Scofield was second among her teammates, just 10 seconds behind Scofield in 42nd. Following the Ephs closely at the Open New England meet was Middlebury in ninth with 261 points. Juniors Sophia Spring (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.) and Erin Toner (New Providence, N.J.) have impressed so far this season, and the duo were the top two runners for the Panthers at the Open New England Championships. The tandem will look to improve upon their 2008 NESCAC championship finish this weekend, as Spring placed 37th while Toner was 46th a year ago. Excluding the two championships they have shared, the Ephs have won a conference-best nine titles while the Panthers have come away with seven crowns

Teams looking to unseat the Panthers and the Ephs will include Amherst, Tufts and Wesleyan. The Jeffs were third among NESCAC teams at the Open New England Championships with 329 points, as senior Sophia Galleher (Denver, Colo.) continued to pace her squad this fall with a 13th-place finish (18:20). Amherst has enjoyed success in recent years at the conference meet, winning the program’s first league title in 2006 before repeating as champion in 2007. The Cardinals had their best finish at the Open New England Championships since 2004 with a 17th-place showing (400) on Oct. 10. Senior Ravenna Neville (Westfield, N.J.) and first year Julia Mark (Bloomsbury, N.J.) had identical times of 18:37 at the event, with Neville edging Mark for 30th. The Jumbos rounded out the top five conference teams at Open New Englands, placing 22nd with a score of 680. Junior Amy Wilfert (Westborough, Mass.) was first among NESCAC runners and second among Division III participants at the event as she completed the course in 18:18, good enough for 11th place.

There will be plenty of competition for the women’s individual title for the second year in a row as the top seven finishers from last year’s championship will not return this weekend. Williams’ Scofield had the highest finish among those returning, as she placed eighth with a time of 22:34. Other individuals to watch include Eph teammate Gossels, Wilfert from Tufts (11th, 22:36), Neville of Wesleyan (18th, 22:55), Galleher of Amherst (77th, 24:46), and Colby senior Katrina Gravel (Peabody, Mass.). Gravel came in 19th at the league meet last fall, completing the Pineland Farms course in 22:56.

On the men’s side, Williams once again looks to have all of the tools to capture its fourth consecutive NESCAC championship. The Ephs’ last three titles have all had the same winning formula - three or more runners among the top 10 finishers. During their pursuit of the 2006 conference crown, the Ephs dominated the top 10 with five runners and ran away from the field by a 51-point margin. Williams won the 2007 title by 39 points and claimed the 2008 championship with a 41-point advantage over Trinity. Leading the Ephs this fall has been the familiar face of senior Edgar Kosgey (Eldoret River Valley, Kenya). Kosgey was the top Division III runner at the Open New England Championships at Franklin Park on Oct. 10, as he finished the race in third with a time of 24:41, 19 seconds behind the winner. He also turned in the top performance for the Ephs at the Purple Valley Classic on Sept. 26, placing second overall, and came in first at the Little Three Championships this past weekend. Joining Kosgey in the Ephs’ quest for a conference-record 12th title will be classmates Corey Watts (Madison, Wis.) and Jeff Perlis (Bethesda, Md.) along with sophomores Josephat Koima (Eldoret Rift Valley, Kenya) and Anthony Raduazo (Bolton, Mass.). Koima was 30th at Open New Englands (25:25) while Watts was 78th overall (25:57). Raduazo garnered NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2008 after an 11th-place showing at the conference championship. Perlis finished last year’s meet in fifth place.

Chasing the Ephs at Wickham Park this weekend will be a host of teams, including Amherst, Middlebury, Trinity and Tufts. The Jeffs have been a consistent top-three finisher at the NESCAC championship over the last three years, taking third at last year’s meet with a score of 93. At this year’s Open New England Championships, Amherst’s 12th-place showing (392) was second behind Williams among conference squads. The Panthers followed the Jeffs closely at Franklin Park in 14th, as they were spurred by sophomore Michael Schmidt’s (Wilmette, Ill.) 20th-place time of 25:16. The Middlebury men have finished sixth at each of the previous four NESCAC championships. The Bantams turned in their best performance at the conference championship this decade in 2008, finishing second with 85 points, just eight ahead of Amherst. Notable recent performances for Trinity include taking second at the James Early Invitational hosted by Westfield St. on Oct. 10 and fourth at the Saratoga Invitational this past weekend. Tufts edged Connecticut College for fourth by one point last fall. The Jumbos, who won three-straight NESCAC titles from 2003-05, were 20th (520) at Open New Englands with senior Jesse Faller (Burlington, Mass.) heading up the squad in 19th overall (25:14).

The men’s individual championship may hold few surprises once again this year. Hamilton senior Peter Kosgei (Kapsabet, Kenya) enters the weekend looking to join former Williams harrier Neal Holtschulte as the only individual to win three consecutive conference crowns (2003-05). After he claimed the 2007 title by 29 seconds, Kosgei ran away from the field in 2008 by 36 seconds with a Pineland Farms course record of 25:07. Later that fall, Kosgei went on to win the 2008 NCAA Championship in Hanover, Ind. Chasing Kosgei’s pursuit of history will be Kosgey of Williams and Faller of Tufts. Kosgey beat out Faller for second at last year’s conference championship by one second, finishing the course in 25:42.

Wickham Park is a non-profit, private foundation whose property extends into both Manchester and East Hartford, Connecticut. The park contains 250 acres of gardens, open fields, woodlands, ponds, picnic areas, sports facilities, and other attractions. The running surface for the cross country course is a combination of grass, woodchip and gravel trails that traverse many hills and is considered by many as one of the most challenging courses in New England and the country. Spikes are the recommended footwear for competitors.

Results from the NESCAC Cross Country Championships will be available on Sunday evening at www.nescac.com.

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