NESCAC Cross Country Championships Set for Saturday

NESCAC Cross Country Championships Set for Saturday

HADLEY, Mass. – Middlebury College will host the 2014 NESCAC Cross Country Championships this Saturday, Nov. 1 in Middlebury, Vermont. The 32nd annual meet commences with the men’s 8-kilometer race at noon followed by the women’s 6-kilometer race at 1 p.m.

The Williams men look to capture their seventh conference crown in nine years and 14th overall following last year’s championship performance in Waterford, Conn. The Ephs tallied 51 points to finish 12 points ahead of runner-up Middlebury due in large part to having three runners place in the top nine. Two of the three harriers, senior Colin Cotton (Cincinnati, Ohio) and junior Bijan Mazaheri (Wellesley, Mass.), return to help Williams defend its title. Cotton, the 2013 runner-up, has been successful throughout the season, having won the RPI Invitational and the Little Three Championship. The 2011 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and two-time All-NESCAC performer also had a second-place finish at the Purple Valley Classic and a 14th-place showing at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invitational, which was first among Division III runners. Mazaheri, the 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, has been just as strong, having finished second at the Little Three Championship, third at the RPI Invitational and the Purple Valley Classic and 30th at the Paul Short Invitational. Both veterans guided the Ephs to the Little Three Championship title on Oct. 18, four second-place results, including the Purple Valley Classic and RPI Invitational, and a 17th-place finish at the Paul Short Invitational on Oct. 4.

Several teams aim to stand in Williams’ way, including Middlebury, Colby, Amherst and Bates. The Panthers are hungry to claim the conference trophy for the first time since 2010 after coming up just short each of the last two championship meets. Middlebury graduated a pair of First Team All-NESCAC honorees, but return a pair of all-conference selections in seniors Wilder Schaaf (Ashland, Ore.) and Kevin Wood (Lincolnshire, Ill.). Schaaf has garnered a trio of top 10 finishes, including a second-place showing at the Middlebury Invitational, a third-place finish at the Albany Invitational and a seventh-place finish at the NEICAAA Championships on Oct. 11, which was the top time posted by a Division III competitor. Wood has also registered three top-10 finishes, having won the Middlebury Invitational and placed seventh at the Purple Valley Classic and the Albany Invitational. The Panthers have been consistent throughout the season, winning the Middlebury and Albany Invitationals and posting an eighth-place finish at the NEICAAA Championships.

Having placed ninth in 2012 and fifth in 2013, Colby looks to continue its ascent up the team standings by claiming its first conference championship since 1993. Sophomore David Chelimo (Nyahururu, Kenya) leads the Mule contingent, having won the Purple Valley Classic early in the season to help Colby earn the team trophy. The 2013 NESCAC Rookie of the Year is joined by senior Jeff Hale (Waterville, Maine), who was sixth at the same meet. Colby also returns sophomore Silas Eastman (Chatham, N.H.), who was a Second Team All-NESCAC recipient at year ago. 

One of the surprise teams this season has been Amherst, which looks to improve on last year’s seventh place finish with its depth. The Jeffs finished fourth at the Purple Valley Classic and 12th at the NEICAAA Championships with multiple runners pacing the squad from week-to-week. Most recently, senior Greg Turissini (Maumee, Ohio) was 26th at the NEICAAA Championships, while first-year Mohamed Hussein (Hargeisa, Somaliland) was fourth at the Little Three Championship and the Purple Valley Classic and junior Dan Crowley (Ludlow, Mass.) was ninth at the Purple Valley Classic. 

Bates, which enters the conference championship fresh off its victory at the Maine State Championship on Oct. 18, is anchored by senior John Stansel (Newburyport, Mass.). Stansel has a pair of individual titles to his credit this season after winning the Bowdoin Invitational and the Maine State Championship. First-year Zach Magin (West Hartford, Conn.) looks to make an impact as well after turning in a pair of third-place finishes at the same meets.

The race for top individual honors will be an exciting one, as a new medalist will be recognized due to the graduation of the previous two winners. The lead pack will likely consist of Amherst’s Turissini, Bates’ Stansel, Colby’s Chelimo and Hale, Middlebury’s Schaaf and Wood, and Williams’ Cotton and Mazaheri. Other runners to contend include Hamilton senior Ben Yeo (Chevy Chase, Md.), Trinity junior Patrick Hoagland (San Diego, Calif.) and Tufts sophomore Luke O’Connor (Chicago, Ill.). A junior or senior has earned first place each year since 2008. 

Last year, the Middlebury women ran away from the field, placing five of its runners among the top nine to win its fourth title in six years and 12th overall with 29 points. The Panthers look to repeat their performance from a year ago with senior Alison Maxwell (Port Angeles, Wash.), a 2013 First Team All-NESCAC honoree, leading the charge. Maxwell has three top-10 finishes to go along with an 11th-place showing at the NEICAAA Championships. Middlebury has an extremely deep lineup, though, as evident by its second-place result at the NEICAAA Championships, first-place finishes at the Middlebury and Albany Invitationals and runner-up result at the Purple Valley Classic. The Panthers have had at least five other runners record top 10 finishes during the season, including reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year and first-team all-conference pick Erzsebet Nagy (Albion, Maine), 2013 First Team All-NESCAC performer junior Adrian Walsh (Bozeman, Mont.), 2013 Second Team All-NESCAC honoree senior Summer Spillane (Shelburne, Vt.) and senior Katie Carlson (Princeton, Mass.).

Middlebury will face a staunch challenge from Williams, Tufts and Amherst. The Ephs lost four of their five scorers from a year ago, but that has not slowed down a youthful squad that has won titles at the Little Three Championship and the Westfield State Invitational and finished second at the RPI Invitational, fourth at the Purple Valley Classic and 21st at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invitational. Two first-year competitors have earned medalist honors during the season, as Emily Sundquist (Salt Lake City, Utah) crossed the finish line first at the Westfield State Invitational and Anna Harleen (Ross, Calif.) won the Little Three Championship. Meanwhile, sophomore Emma Zehner (New Haven, Conn.) has been the most consistent Williams performer, as she has compiled three top-15 finishes.

Tufts has recorded first-place finishes at the Bowdoin and Connecticut College Invitationals, a third-place result at the Purple Valley Classic and a 15th-place showing at the NEICAAA Championship this season. The Jumbos are paced by juniors Audrey Gould (Pelham, Mass.) and Olivia Beltrani (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) and sophomore Kelly Fahey (Winter Park, Fla.). Gould has been Tufts’ top performer throughout the season, as the 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and first-team all-conference runner has three top-three finishes to go along with a 15th-place showing at the NEICAAA Championship. Beltrani, a 2013 Second Team All-NESCAC performer, has been equally consistent with two top-10 results and a 12th-place finish at the Purple Valley Classic, while Fahey hopes to contend for all-conference honors to cap off a season that has yielded a trio top-10 finishes of her own. 

Amherst aims to improve on last year’s eighth-place result with the help of Savanna Gornisiewicz (Pompano Beach, Fla.). The sophomore has three top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the Little Three Championship nearly two weeks ago. The Jeffs will also look to senior Lizzy Briskin (Sherborn, Mass.) and junior Lexi Sinclair (West Bloomfield, Mich.) to help move up the team standings.

Several individuals will contend for top honors in a wide-open field, as six of the top ten competitors from last year are not returning. In addition to the runners already mentioned, other individuals vying for the title include Bates' Elena Jay (West Hartford, Conn.), Bowdoin's Lucy Skinner (Hanover, N.H.), Colby's Alanna McDonough (Andover, Mass.) and Connecticut College's Ashley Curran (Franklin, Mass.). Eleven of the last 12 medalist honorees have been from Amherst or Williams.     

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