Men’s Cross Country | Jumbos finish fifth at Regionals, qualify for NCAAs
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 07:11
On a day filled with individual accolades, the men’s cross country team finished fifth out of 50 teams at the New England Regional Championship at Westfield State on Saturday. Spurred on by its first five runners placing among the top 35 overall, Tufts became eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship, and received a bid to nationals Sunday afternoon.
Middlebury, the only team to remain beneath the 100-point mark Saturday, won the team title, with Bowdoin amassing 101 points to finish in second. The top-two finishers were the only automatic qualifiers for the NCAAs.
Bates finished four points behind in-state rival Bowdoin, while Williams barely edged out the Jumbos, a mere one point between them for fourth place. Although Williams surpassed Tufts in the final moments, the Jumbos hung on for fifth to secure the final at-large slot.
“We got the job done,” senior co-captain Jeff Marvel said. “The goal for Regionals was to make it to Nationals, and that’s what we did. After winning NESCACs, it may seem like a fifth-place finish isn’t what we were looking for, but the region is incredibly competitive. On any given day, any of the five teams that qualified for Nationals could beat the others.”
Tufts could easily have finished outside the top five, considering the hectic beginning to the day.
“The race began and only three of our guys were even on the starting line,” sophomore Marshall Pagano said. “Needless to say, most guys got a bad start and had to really adjust their race strategies.”
When warmups were interrupted by the sound of the gun, chaos ensued. Officials initially allotted two minutes for preparation, but, because in reality only about a quarter of that time was given, the bulk of the Jumbos had to play catch-up for the first half-mile or so.
Fortunately, Tufts regained its composure mostly unscathed but still was a bit fatigued from the mad dash early on.
Senior co-captain Matt Rand, just two weeks removed from a down-to-the-wire finish at the NESCAC Championship, spearheaded the charge for Tufts. Rand, also a contributing writer for the Daily, crossed the line in a time of 25:00 flat to place sixth in a field of 351. Well within the top 35, Rand earned All-New England honors for the first time in his four-year career.
His stellar performance was the trailblazer for a slew of firsts on the day. Junior Ben Wallis, just nine seconds behind Rand, claimed 11th place and was the second runner from Tufts to be named All-New England. Also earning his first such honor was senior Tyler Andrews, who ran the eight-kilometer course in 25:32 to finish in 28th place.
Juniors Andrew Shapero and Brian McLaughlin finished in 34th and 35th respectively, capturing the last two spots designated All-New England. The award was the first for Shapero and the second for McLaughlin.
Only three spots removed from the top 35 was senior Kyle Marks, while junior Jake McCauley took 43rd in a time of 25:52. Nine seconds and five places separated the Jumbos’ last two runners.
Tufts’ fifth-place finish matched its showing from last year. With a point total of 114, the Jumbos finished just 13 points out of an automatic qualifying slot and 23 out of first place. In comparison, at last years’ race, Tufts finished 87 points out of first place.
And even though there was no progress made placement-wise this time around, coach Ethan Barron’s team demonstrated both its mettle and impressive fitness level by narrowing the gap between them and the champions significantly.
Because the New England region is comprised of a number of national powerhouses, Tufts, given the stiff competition it has faced, will advance to the NCAA Championship as an at-large team.
The announcement was made Sunday, as all three at-large teams from the New England region, Bates, Williams and Tufts, earned a trip to Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 17.
The nation’s 32 best teams from the eight regions will compete, with Tufts, ranked No. 5 in the nation as recently as Halloween, expected to exceed its ninth-place finish from 2011.
“This week is all about rest and recovery,” Marvel said. “This is what we’ve been training for all year, and we have high hopes of finishing very well as a team. It’s been a successful season so far, but we’d like to cap it off with a big kaboom.”