The men’s cross country team finished in a strong second place out of 34 teams at the NCAA Division III East Regional championship in New Hampshire on Saturday. All seven runners were in the top 35 to secure all-regional honors, and this performance, along with a strong record this season, secured the team an at-large berth for the NCAA National championship that will take place on Saturday. On the women’s side, the team finished fourth overall, with graduate student Meghan Davis and junior Carly Rinko receiving individual bids to nationals.
Junior captain Ivan Appleton led the team again, finishing fifth overall in the 8K with a time of 24:44.33. At his heels were senior Walter Wagude and sophomore Luke Brennan in ninth and tenth place overall, with times of 25:00.26 and 25:02.29 respectively. To round out the scoring runners, sophomores Calvin Cummings and Quinn Hampson were in 16th and 17th place. The team was remarkably close together in a very competitive race, as Hampson’s time of 25:10.06 was less than a 30-second difference from Appleton’s time.
The women’s team, finishing in fourth place out of 33 teams, also fared well on Saturday. Carly Rinko was 11th overall in the 6K with a time of 22:25.53. Davis had a time of 22:27.47, which was good for 16th place. First-year Sophia Carpenter and sophomore Lexi Dean were 31st and 35th for four All-Region performances on the women’s side.
The men’s team invitation to Nationals was announced on Sunday. Thirty-two teams compete at Nationals with the winning team from each of ten regions automatically earning the chance to compete at Nationals. The remaining 22 bids are given out at large based on the team’s finish at regionals as well as the team record over the course of the season.
The second-place finish is the best the Jumbos have done in this race since 2005; the men’s team came into the race off of many strong regular season performances to secure the at-large invitation.
Senior Ryan Proulx reflected on the team mindset toward the race given that the men’s team favored to perform well at this race.
“The team strategy was really just to not mess up … We knew we were one of the teams to beat,” he wrote in an email to the Daily. “I think we executed that really well with a confident second place.”
Rinko reflected on the women’s team’s performance, noting that the team grew in confidence over the course of the season.
“I am so proud of the six other women who raced and am more than confident we will qualify for nationals as a team next year,” Rinko wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are going into indoor/outdoor track with a chip on our shoulders and ready to compete. … I think we began to believe in our talent a little too late into the XC season ”
The Jumbos were buoyed by the support of over 90 fans at the race. A large majority of this group included their teammates, many of whom were particularly spirited.
“It is a tradition for … many cross country and track & field Jumbos to come cheer at Regionals and Nationals,” Rinko wrote. “The ‘crazies’ paint their bodies with blue and brown and hold giant cutouts of the racers faces; they run all around the course cheering at each corner.”
Proulx agreed that the notable crowd support made the racing experience special.
“The support from the crowd was incredible,” he wrote. “I had been on the other end the last two years cheering on which is also a blast and it was really nice to be able to experience it from the other side this year.”
The Jumbos (and fans) will make the trip to Pennsylvania on Saturday for the NCAA Championship.