Hamilton Hosts 28th Annual Championship Meet
HADLEY, Mass. – The 2010 NESCAC Cross Country Championships will be held this Saturday, Oct. 30, on the campus of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. The 28th edition of the annual conference meet will begin at 12:00 p.m. with the men's 8-kilometer race and will be followed at 1:00 p.m. by the women's 6-kilometer race.
The last four men's titles have all gone to Williams, as the Ephs claimed their 12th conference crown by a 48-point margin over second place Amherst last fall. It should come as no surprise that strong performances have been key for Williams over the past four years, with three harriers finishing among the top 10 each time. The Ephs scored 40 points in 2009, the third-lowest performance by any team at the league meet in the last decade, with two runners placing in second and third and five individuals in the top 15. Although three of those five have departed following graduation last May, Williams is still a formidable foe with a deep roster. Junior Josephat Koima (Eldoret Rift Valley, Kenya) is the top returner from last year's NESCAC championship after finishing third with a time of 26:18. Koima has been the fastest runner for his team in every race he has competed in this fall, including a 20th overall showing (25:14) at the Open New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston on Oct. 9. Sophomore Scott Rodilitz (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and freshman Max LaBerge (Tacoma, Wash.) also enjoyed strong showings for the Ephs at Open New Engalnds. Rodilitz was second among his teammates (25:41), while LaBerge was third (25:55). Williams had the best finish among Division III teams at the meet, placing eighth with 333 points.
A host of teams will look to unseat the defending champion Ephs this weekend, including Bowdoin, Tufts, Bates, and Middlebury. The Polar Bears, who won back-to-back NESCAC titles in 2001-02, are eager to return to the upper echelon of the conference after finishing sixth in 2008 and fifth in 2009. Bowdoin was second only to Williams among conference squads at Open New Englands, placing 11th overall with 368 points. The Polar Bears have also managed to earn top honors at two other meets this fall, the Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 25, and the Maine State Championship on Oct. 16, which they won for the sixth year in a row. After winning three NESCAC championships from 2003 through 2005, the Jumbos have battled back to the top of the conference mountain. Tufts had its strongest showing since its last title a year ago, finishing third with 90 points, just two behind second place Amherst. The Jumbos were 17th overall (453) at New Englands and also tied fir first at the 19-team Connecticut College Invitational on Oct. 16. The Bobcats placed just ahead of the Jumbos at Franklin Park, coming in 15th (434), and also tout a pair of second-place performances this fall, at the Codfish Bowl at Franklin Park on Sept. 25 and the Maine State Championships. Bates has five NESCAC titles to its credit, the most recent in 1989. The Panthers could make some noise at the head of the pack this weekend. After turning in its best performance since 1991 with a fourth place finish last year, Middlebury may have a shot at winning its first-ever NESCAC title. While the Panthers did finish 24th overall at New Englands (596), they did edge the Ephs at two early season meets this fall.
Gunning for an unprecedented fourth individual title will be Hamilton senior Peter Kosgei (Kapsabet, Kenya). Kosgei is one of three individuals to have ever won the NESCAC championship three times and will look to distance himself from a field determined to keep up. Those chasing Kosgei this weekend for individual honors will include Williams' Koima along with Amherst senior Will Yochum (Goleta, Calif.), Middlebury junior Michael Schmidt (Wilmette, Ill.), and Bowdoin rookie Coby Horowitz (Stow, Mass.), who have all been the top performers for their respective teams this season. Yochum and Schmidt join Kosgei and Koima among the top returners from last year. Horowitz will challenge not only for a top 10 finish but could end up as the top first year performer at the race.
On the women's side, it has been another impressive fall for Middlebury. The defending NESCAC champions are arguably one of the top teams in the nation at the moment and have turned in some stellar performances this season against competition from all three NCAA divisions. The Panthers earned first place performances at the Panther Invitational on Sept. 18, the Williams Invitational on Sept. 25, and the Vermont State Championship on Oct. 2. During the Open New England Championships on Oct. 9, Middlebury was first among Division III competitors and third overall in the 47-team field with 163 points as the Panthers' top five harriers all finished within 28 seconds of each other. Leading the way at Franklin Park was senior Amanda Lee (Lincoln, Neb.) with a time of 18:17, just two seconds better than first year sensation Colette Whitney (High Bridge, N.J.). Whitney has paced the Panthers at four of their six meets this year. Not far behind was classmate Maddie Hubbell (Des Moines, Iowa) with a time of 18:25, as Hubbell has kept pace with Whitney throughout the fall. The trio hope to help capture not only their second-straight outright title but also give Middlebury head coach Terry Aldrich another conference crown at what will be his last NESCAC meet. Through 36 years at the helm of the Panther cross country program, Aldrich's teams have won 10 NESCAC championships, including the inaugural title in 1983.
Among the teams which will challenge Middlebury for this year's women's championship will include Williams, Amherst, and Colby. Only the Ephs have more NESCAC titles than the Panthers with 11 to their credit, as the two squads have combined to win 19 of the last 27 conference meets - including sharing the title in 2004 and again in 2008. Williams has managed to finish in the top three at the league championship every year since 1988, placing second with 59 points last fall, 10 behind Middlebury. This season, the Ephs were the only NESCAC team besides the Panthers to finish in the top 10 at Open New Englands, coming in sixth with 221 points. Williams was also second to Middlebury at the Purple Valley Classic, and most recently won the Little Three championships at Wesleyan. The Jeffs have enjoyed recent success at the NESCAC championship, winning the program's first titles in back-to-back fashion in 2006-07 and claiming third in 2009. Amherst was third among conference squads at New Englands, placing 15th overall (418). The Mules were not far behind at Franklin Park, coming in 17th (478). Colby went on to win the Maine State Championships a week later, the Mules' sixth state title in the last seven years. The Mules, who won the NESCAC championship in 1986 and again in 1994, have been regulars amongst the top five teams at the NESCAC championship over the past six years, taking fifth last fall.
The women's individual title will be up for grabs once again with a mixture of runners representing various class years all vying for first. Tufts senior Amy Wilfert (Westborough, Mass.) is the top returner from last year's championship, as she finished third with a time of 21:41. Also returning will be Middlebury's Claire McIlvennie (Ithaca, N.Y.) along with Julia Mark (Bloomsbury, N.J.) of Wesleyan and the sophomore tandem of Annie Dear (Olympia, Wash.) and Jennifer Gossels (Sudbury, Mass.) from Williams. They will be pursued by first time competitors Amy Tortorello (Medway, Mass.), a sophomore at Colby, and the Panthers' Whitney and Hubbell. Dear was the top NESCAC individual at Open New Englands (9th, 17:57) as she edged teammate Gossels by one second.
Results from the NESCAC Cross Country Championships will be available on Saturday afternoon at www.nescac.com.