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The men's cross country team encountered a muddy course at the Division III NCAA National Championships Nov. 18, however finished in the top half. (Photos by Steve Maheu)
Posted 12.04.06

Men's Cross Country Competes at Nationals for Second Straight Year

The Wesleyan Men’s Cross Country team overcame an uneven season of performances to finish in the top half of the field at the Division III NCAA National Championships in Ohio on Nov 18.

“We started off running instead of racing,” Men’s Head Coach John Crooke says about the early part of the season. “It’s quite simply competing. Cross country is not about time, it’s about place. When you race, you are competing, not running.”

The team had three mediocre efforts in its first three tests of the season, dipping from 10th to 14th in the New England Open, coming up short of both Williams and Amherst in the Little Three meet and placing a disappointing fifth of 11 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) meet.

“I would say we had a roller-coaster season,” Matt Shea ’08 says. “I feel like we lost some of our morale in the middle of the season.”

Some, but not all. A little more than two weeks after their disappointing showing at the NESCAC meet, the men placed 4th out of 45 teams at the New England Division III Regional Championships in Springfield, Mass. Out of 309 total finishers, the Wesleyan scoring five finished: 17th Alex Battaglino ’07; 24th Anda Greeney ’07; 34th Sean Watson ’08; 43rd Jon King ’07; and 47th Mike Brady ‘07.

“We really put our best team race together when it counted at regionals with a 34-second spread from one to five and less than a minute from one to seven,” says Brady.

The top two teams at the event, Williams and Bowdoin, received automatic bids to the NCAA National Championship meet. Wesleyan’s outstanding performance earned the team an at-large bid to the 32-team field. It was the school’s second-ever invite to the nationals, the first coming last year.

“I was exceptionally proud of how we never gave up and we were able to come together as a team and have great races at both regionals and nationals,” says Shea.

Nationals were hosted by Wilmington College in Ohio and held at the Voice of America Park in West Chester on Nov. 18th. Wesleyan athletics director John Biddiscombe, who attended the event, described them as “some of the worst conditions for a sporting event I have ever seen.” Days of torrential rain had left the ground saturated and muddy with standing water inches deep throughout the course.

“Course conditions were nuts,” says Anda Greeney. “Cross country is about running in all types of weather, but this being Nationals, you’d think they would choose a place that wasn’t sitting at or under the water table.”

Overall, the Cardinal finished 15th - ahead of Bowdoin (17th) and Trinity (31st); Williams (7th) was the only New England school to finish higher than Wesleyan. Watson posted the team’s best individual performance, crossing the finish line 67th out of 279 runners.

“Running at Nationals is an exciting experience,” Brady says. “The dinner, the free stuff, flying out to Ohio, the NCAA symbol painted on the grass near the starting area. It’s quite an atmosphere.”
 
By Brian Katten, sports information director