Men’s Cross Country | Jumbos impress against New England’s best
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 08:10
The men’s cross country team traveled a short distance to Boston’s historic Franklin Park this weekend for the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association (NEICAAA) Championships to take on the region’s best cross country teams from all divisions.
The Jumbos placed eighth overall in the varsity race (third among Div. III schools), and third overall in the sub-varsity race (first among Div. III schools), proving to New England they are a top-tier team.
Franklin Park, which has hosted many high profile meets in its past, including the 1992 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships, is considered one of the more “neutral” courses in the region. The competitors must run a few loops around the storied course, including twice up the infamous Bear Cage Hill, a place where a runner’s guts can decide a race.
The Jumbos responded to this challenge at both the varsity and sub-varsity levels.
Senior tri-captain Ben Wallis again paced the Jumbos at the varsity level, as he finished 33rd overall with a time of 25:14 on the eight-kilometer course. Senior Andrew Shapero was not far behind Wallis, as he ran a strong race to take 36th overall in 25:16.
After Tufts’ frontrunners finished, the rest of the Jumbos ran as a pack in impressive fashion, as the third through sixth runners were only spread apart by six seconds. Senior Jamie Norton and sophomore Nicholas Guarnaccia took 65th and 66th overall, with times of 25:44 and 25:45, respectively, while freshman Tim Nichols finished 69th overall also with a time of 25:45. Fellow freshman Luke O’Connor finished 79th in 25:50, and senior Brian McLaughlin finished 127th in 26:21.
“As a team, we wanted to stick together. Some of us wanted to go out hard and take the risk to avoid the huge pack of runners, while others wanted to go out conservatively and pick people off near the end,” Shapero said. “We were trying to get a few guys under 26 minutes, and I think we accomplished that goal well.”
The Jumbos finished the meet with a solid 269 points and a 25:33 seven man team average.
“We were really pleased with our performance on the day,” Shapero said. We beat MIT [formerly ranked first in Div. III] who had been racing very well and had beaten Williams [No. 5], so it shows we can hold our own against the best of Div. III.”
The sub-varsity Jumbos also raced well, placing third overall in the eight-kilometer race with 118 points. Four of the top five finishers for the Jumbos were juniors, including Liam Cassidy, who led the way with his ninth place finish in 26:04.
Only 20 seconds later, junior Samuel Hansen finished 18th overall, followed closely by junior Marshall Pagano in 28th place. Junior Greg Hardy and sophomore James Traester rounded out the scoring for the Jumbos, as they placed 42nd and 45th, respectively.
“As a team, we tried to get out hard at the start so we wouldn’t get boxed in because we were lined up at the corner of the start line,” freshman Bobby McLaughlin, who placed 88th overall in a time of 27:21, said. “We planned to run a fast but relaxed first two miles, and then our goal was to work hard on those third and fourth miles through to the fifth mile, where the entire focus was to hang on.”
Throughout this race, the Jumbos utilized their pack running strategy, which has worked well for them in the past.
“Again, we gained more experience and learned how to run as a pack better throughout the race, because we have found that we all run well together,” McLaughlin said. “Personally, I learned how to get out and race a hard, fast ‘8k.’”
The team’s well-executed strategy and their depth allowed them to place first among Div. III schools, and allowed them to defeat many top name Div. III squads schools as well.
“We were very happy with our third place finish,” McLaughlin said. “Our strong showing in the sub-varsity race demonstrated our depth as a team, and showed everyone that Tufts cross country can run right up with Div. III and Div. II schools.”
The Jumbos travel to Conn. College next weekend for the Connecticut College Invitational, but they do not plan on racing their full strength.
“We won’t be racing our varsity top seven or our sub-varsity top six next week [at Conn. College],” Shapero said. “These guys will be resting up for NESCACs [on Nov. 2], but they will be there cheering their other teammates on.”