NESCAC Cross Country Championships Slated For Saturday

NESCAC Cross Country Championships Slated For Saturday

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HADLEY, Mass.-  Connecticut College will host the 2013 NESCAC Cross Country Championships this Saturday, Nov. 2, at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Conn. The 31st annual meet commences with the women’s 6-kilometer race at noon followed by the men’s 8-kilometer race at 1 p.m. 

Williams looks to capture its third consecutive women’s championship trophy after earning the program’s 13th overall title last year in Brunswick, Maine. The Ephs tallied 45 points courtesy of three runners finishing in the top five. Williams returns a veteran core that has continued to see success this season with seniors Shayna Barbash (Bethesda, Md.) and Kaleigh Kenny (Glen Rock, N.J.) leading the pack. Kenny has been strong throughout the season winning two races, as she beat out 159 harriers at the Purple Valley Classic on Sept. 28 and earned medalist honors at the Little Three Championships on Oct. 19. Barbash was the top Williams finisher at the Paul Short Invitational and finished second at the Little Three Championships. Kenny placed third at last year’s championship, while classmate Brianne Mirecki (East Lyme, Conn.) crossed the finish line fourth.

If the Ephs hope to claim another championship, they will face strong competition from Middlebury, Tufts and Bates. The Panthers, who recorded 71 points last year, look to regain the title after having won in 2009 and 2010, and sharing the title with Williams in 2008. Junior Sarah Guth (Wilton, Conn.) and first-year Erzsebet Nagy (Albion, Maine) have paced the squad, as the duo has been separated by mere seconds throughout the season. Guth, who placed 11th at last year’s championship, edged out Nagy at the finish line of the University of Albany Invitational and was the second Division III harrier to finish at the NEICAAA Championships. Nagy was the first Panther to cross the finish line at the Purple Valley Classic with a fifth-place showing and was three seconds behind Guth at the NEICAAA Championships.

Tufts has recorded two first-place finishes and one runner-up result in four meets this season behind the trio of senior Abby Barker (San Carlos, Calif.) and sophomores Olivia Beltrani (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) and Audrey Gould (Pelham, Mass.). Barker’s finishes have improved over the course of the season, as she finished fourth at the Bowdoin Invitational and, most recently, third at the Connecticut College Invitational. Beltrani has earned three top 10 finishes, including a first-place result at the Bowdoin Invitational. Gould, the 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, has been equally consistent with a trio of top 10 showings of her own.

Bates is fresh off winning the Maine State Championships after having earned second place at the Roy Griak Invitational. Sophomore Hannah Zeltner (Bedford, N.H.) has been the top Bobcat finisher with a third-place result at the Southern Maine Invitational and a fourth-place showing at the Roy Griak Invitational. Bates will rely on seniors Gabrielle Naranja (Fort Kent, Maine) and Kallie Nixon (Medfield, Mass.) and junior Elena Jay (West Hartford, Conn.) to turn in solid times, as the Bobcats aim to move up from last year’s fourth-place tie with Tufts.

Several individuals will contend for top honors in a wide-open field, as four of the top six competitors from last year are not returning. In addition to the runners already mentioned, other individuals vying for the title include Amherst’s Lizzy Briskin (Sherborn, Mass.), Bowdoin’s Lucy Skinner (Hanover, N.H.) and Hamilton’s Adrian Walsh (Bozeman, Mont.). Ten of the last 11 medalist honorees have been from Amherst or Williams.

A year ago the top five men’s squads were separated by 31 points, and this fall’s championship has the making to be just as tight at the top. Tufts placed five runners in the top 20 at the 2012 championship, as the Jumbos claimed their first NESCAC title since 2005 and fourth overall when it tallied 66 points to edge Middlebury by three. The Jumbos graduated a pair of all-conference runners, but the team has finished second at the Bowdoin Invitational and eighth at the NEICAAA Championships. Leading the charge for Tufts is senior Ben Wallis (Dover, R.I.), who garnered Second Team All-NESCAC last year. Earlier this season, Wallis beat out 129 harriers to win the Bowdoin Invitational.

Several teams look to stand in Tufts’ way, including Middlebury, Williams, Bowdoin, Bates and Colby. The Panthers are hungry to claim the conference trophy for the first time since 2010 after narrowly missing out in 2012. Middlebury has a veteran squad led by seniors Gregory Krathwohl (Ipswich, Mass.) and Nate Sans (Princeton, Mass.) and junior Kevin Wood (Lincolnshire, Ill.). Krathwohl has turned in strong finishes, having won the Bard Invitational, taking second at the University of Albany Invitational, seventh at the Purple Valley Classic and 22nd at the NEICAAA Championships. Sans, the only returning All-NESCAC performer on the team, has also had a trio of top 10 finishes to go along with a 13th-place result at the NEICAAA Championships. Wood looks to earn all-conference honors after finishing 15th a year ago, as he has registered three top six showings this year. The Panthers have lowered their times each week, culminating in a first-place result at the University of Albany Invitational one week after taking fifth at the NEICAAA Championships.

Williams hopes to add its sixth title in eight years to the trophy case after finishing fifth with 97 points in 2012. Two-time All-NESCAC honoree senior Chris Lee (Longmeadow, Mass.) appears to be peaking at the right time after winning the Little Three Championships following a second-place result at the Purple Valley Classic on Oct. 19. Lee has not been the only Eph to win a meet this season, as 2011 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Colin Cotton (Cincinnati, Ohio) crossed the finish line first at the Purple Valley Classic. Cotton was also the top Division III finisher at the Paul Short Invitational. Sophomore and 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Bijan Mazaheri (Wellesley, Mass.) has placed in the top 10 of three races, including a fourth-place finish at the Little Three Championships, which Williams won. The Ephs also won the McGill and Plansky Invitationals, while earning second at the Purple Valley Classic.

Bowdoin is poised to make a push for the team title as well. The Polar Bears, who are in search of their first championship since winning back-to-back trophies in 2001 and 2002, earned third last year with 88 points. Senior Coby Horowitz (Stow, Mass.) picked up right where he left off in 2012, winning the Southern Maine Invitational and the Maine State Championships, while finishing second at the Hanover Pre-National Invitational. Horowitz, who earned First Team All-NESCAC in 2011 and Second Team All-NESCAC Second Team in 2010, was the Most Outstanding Performer a year ago. He is not the only Bowdoin harrier capable of turning in low times, as senior Nick Saba (Hamden, Conn.) was the runner-up at the Bowdoin Invitational and placed sixth at Hanover Pre-National Invitational and senior Sam Seekins (South China, Maine) is a 2012 All-NESCAC First Teamer. The Polar Bears won their own invitational and the Maine State Championships.

Bates finished one point behind Bowdoin for fourth place at last year’s championships, and aims to contend for first with a veteran team anchored by seniors Mike Martin (Slatersville, R.I.) and Tully Hannan (West Hartford, Conn.). Martin turned in his best time of the season at the NEICAAA Championships, where he finished first among Division III runners. The 2012 First Team All-NESCAC harrier has recorded solid results all season, having placed second at the Southern Maine Invitational and the Maine State Championships and third at the Roy Griak Invitational. Hannan, a three-time All-NESCAC honoree, was fifth at the Roy Griak Invitational, eighth at Southern Maine Invitational and 19th at the NEICAAA Championships. The Bobcats have had three top three finishes out of five meets this season, topped off by a third-place showing at the Roy Griak Invitational and a seventh-place result at the NEICAAA Championships.

The surprise of the season has been Colby, which looks to improve on last year’s ninth-place showing with the help of first-year tandem David Chelimo (Nayahururu, Kenya) and Silar Eastman (Chatham, N.H.). Chelimo took third at the Maine State Championships and 11th at Purple Valley Classic, while Eastman was fifth at the Maine State Championships and 12th at Purple Valley Classic. The Mules showed their team depth with a 14th-place finish at the NEICAAA Championships and a runner-up finish at the Maine State Championships.

The race for top individual honors should be a hotly contested one. In order to defend his title, Horowitz will have to beat out a strong field led by Connecticut College senior and three-time First Team All-NESCAC honoree Michael LeDuc (Canton, Conn.). LeDuc is the only runner to beat Horowitz this season, as he won the Hanover Pre-National Invitational. He also won the Connecticut College Invitational. The lead pack will also likely consist of Bates’ Martin and Hannan, Bowdoin’s Saba, Colby’s Chelimo and Eastman, Middlebury’s Krathwohl, Sans and Wood, Tufts’ Wallis and Williams’ Lee and Cotton. Other runners to contend include Amherst junior KC Fussell (Monson, Mass.) and sophomore Dan Crowley (Ludlow, Mass.), who placed second and third, respectively, at the Little Three Championships along with Hamilton sophomore Adam Pfander (Newfane, Vt.), who has won three races this season. 

Results from the NESCAC Cross Country Championships will be available on Saturday afternoon at