Men's XC | Tufts men turn in excellent all-around performance at Purple Valley Classic
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 06:09
Though most of its top athletes spent the day training at Westfield State, the site of this year’s New England Championships, the remainder of the men’s cross country squad was represented superbly between the two races that comprised the Purple Valley Classic: the men’s eight-kilometer race and a coed five-kilometer race.
The lone entrant for the Jumbos in the eight-kilometer race in a field of 207, junior Ben Wallis emerged as the star performer on the day. Wallis, who missed last week’s dual meet against Bates with calf soreness, declined to skip the Purple Valley Classic in order to train at Westfield State because he wanted to get a race under his belt.
“I was happy with my opening race,” Wallis said. “I worked on staying to the game plan and waited to make a single decisive move, [and] I was lucky enough to hold on to the finish line despite fading in the final 400 meters.”
Whatever lingering doubts there were about the condition of his calf were all but dispelled by his impressive performance. Wallis pulled away with a little more than a kilometer and a half to go, leaving a substantial field in his wake to claim the individual title in a time of 26:13.
“Most of us weren’t sure how he would feel today because he took a few days off last week,” said senior Adam Brosh. “But he looked really strong and was able to break away from the field with about a mile to go. He struggled a bit over the last 400 meters, but he was able to hold it together for a great race.”
Wallis may have put forth the best individual performance on Saturday, but he by no means cast a shadow on the rest of the team, which combined for a runner-up position in the co-ed five-kilometer race, a result surpassed only by UMass Lowell.
Freshman Mike Curley, who has begun to display tremendous potential, was the first of the Jumbos across the finish line, posting a time of 17:01 to arrive in sixth place out of a field of 72. Next to finish for Tufts were sophomore Alex Sheltzer and freshman James Traester, who crossed the line in 13th and 14th place respectively.
Brosh crossed the line in 16th, while junior Brandon Wheeler ended up in 19th place to bring up the rear for Tufts as the fourth and fifth scores, respectively.
Although it was UMass Lowell who bested Tufts by a score of 33 to 61, Tufts was really measuring itself against NESCAC foe Williams. And judging by the way the two races panned out, Tufts appears to be the stronger team to date. Not only did Wallis run away with the individual eight-kilometer title, besting the Ephs’ efforts, but three young guns on the Tufts team performed very strongly in the five-kilometer race to place the Jumbos above Williams overall.
This kind of firepower rounds out a roster replete with talent. What’s more, Wallis, the fastest of over 200 runners on Saturday, is but one Jumbo among a cadre of experienced runners—including senior co-captain Matt Rand and his classmates Kyle Marks and Tyler Andrews—who are all sure to compete against the best runners on opposing teams in each of Tufts’ six subsequent races.
At this juncture, Tufts, the second-ranked team in New England and eighth-ranked nationally, looks poised to make a charge for both the All-New England Championship title in two weeks and the NESCAC title on October 27th. With only Bates, to whom the Jumbos fell on September 15th, ranked higher both regionally and nationally, the window of opportunity for success at the highest level continues to expand.
“Ben showed that our top runners are most likely stronger than [Williams’], though I would say that Bates is still our best competition,” Brosh said. “However, come Regionals, you never know which team will step up and have a great day. Hopefully it will be us.”