Cross Country Teams Head To NESCAC Championship

October 27, 2006

HADLEY, Mass. - Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Conn., will be the setting this Saturday for the 2006 NESCAC Cross Country Championships hosted by Connecticut College. The event will begin with the men's championship race at 11:00 a.m. and will be followed shortly afterwards by the women's championship race at 11:45 a.m. The presentation of the NESCAC Championship trophies will take place at 1:15 p.m.

The 2005 NESCAC Men's Cross Country Championship saw Tufts earn its third NESCAC title in a row by edging out Williams 58 to 62, the closest finish to the race in the past nine years. Both teams have felt the effects of graduation this season, with Tufts losing the leadership of two time All- NESCAC First Team member Matthew Lacey and Williams without the services of Neal Holtschulte, a two-time NESCAC Most Outstanding Per-former. For the Jumbos, senior Justin Chung (Manchester, Conn.) has been leading his teammates as the top finisher for Tufts in three races this season, including a 28th-place finish at the New England Championships on Oct. 7. The Ephs' sophomore Brendan Christian (Chicago, Ill.) was the squad's top finisher at the New England Championships, placing 44th to help Williams come away with a 15th-place showing at the event, third among NESCAC teams.

This year's men's championship may be the most wide-open in recent history. Bowdoin has had a strong start this season and is looking to earn its third NESCAC title this decade after claiming back-to-back crowns in 2001 and 2002. The Polar Bears finished 10th at the New England Champion-ships - the highest finish for any Division III team at the event - and have posted first-place showings in each of their three other races this season. Senior Owen McKenna (Amston, Conn.) and sophomore Archie Abrams (Lexington, Mass.) highlight a strong Bowdoin squad heading into the weekend. McKenna finished first at the Maine-Farmington race on Sept. 30, while Abrams has led the Polar Bears at their last two races, finishing 14th at the New England Championships and third at the Maine State Championship on Oct. 14.

Other men's teams to watch this weekend include Amherst, Trinity and Wesleyan, all of which will be looking to earn their first NESCAC Men's Cross Country title. The Jeffs came away from the UMass Dartmouth Invitational with a fourth-place showing on Sept. 16 and finished the New England Championship in 17th-place. Trinity has had an impressive fall, spurred by the performance of 2005 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Hunter Norte (Ellington, Conn.). Norte finished first at the Connecticut College Invitational at Harkness State Park on Sept. 9, helping the Bantams place fifth overall at the event. Trinity has earned a first-place showing at both the UMass Dartmouth Invitational and the James Early Invitational at Westfield St. on Oct. 7. Wesleyan managed a 14th-place showing at this year's New England Championships, second among NESCAC schools. Individually, look for Connecticut College senior Keith Drake (Lebanon, N.H.) to improve upon his 10th-place finish at last year's championship.

The women's championship may be just as unpredictable as the men's this year. Defending champion Williams will be challenged to repeat at this year's event without the services of two-time NESCAC Most Outstanding Performer Caroline Cretti. While the Ephs finished seventh at the New England Championships on Oct. 7, they were behind three other NESCAC teams at the event. Juniors Liz Gleason (Newton, Mass.) and Mallory Harlin (Cranford, N.J.), both NESCAC All-Conference First Team members last year, will look to help Williams bring the NESCAC title back to Williamstown on Saturday.

Finishing only 11 points behind Williams at last year's championship was Amherst, and the Jeffs appear poised to make a run at the title this weekend once again. Amherst has placed either first or second at every race it has participated in so far this fall, including a second-place showing at the New England Championships. Senior Shauneen Garrahan (Fairfax Station, Va.), an All-NESCAC First Team selection in each of her previous three seasons, will look to capture medalist honors for the second time in her career after finishing first at the NESCAC Championship during her rookie season in 2003, which earned her Most Outstanding Performer and Rookie of the Year accolades in the process. Garrahan finished fourth at New England Championships and was followed closely by junior teammate Kim Partee (Brentwood, Tenn.) who finished 12th and junior Heather Wilson (Danvers, Mass.) in 21st. Both Partee and Wilson were All-NESCAC Second Team selections in 2005.

Look for Middlebury, Tufts and Colby to be contenders for this year's crown as the three squads rounded out the top five teams at last year's championship. After placing fifth last autumn, Middlebury is poised to claim its seventh title in the past nine years, having last won the title in 2004 when it shared the crown with Williams. The Panthers finished the New England Championships in third place, just behind Amherst, with senior Erin Archard's (Vienna, Maine) 15th-place finish pacing the team. Tufts earned a sixth-place showing at the New England Championships thanks to two top 20 finishes from junior Catherine Beck (Brookline, N.H.) in ninth and classmate Katy O'Brien (North Easton, Mass.) in 19th. Colby, which came in third at last year's NESCAC race, was fifth among NESCAC teams at the New England Championships and will be led this weekend by senior Karen Prisby (Agawam, Mass.), an All-NESCAC First Team member last year. Individually, look for Wesleyan senior Ellen Davis (Montclair, N.J.) to finish among the top 10 runners after placing eighth in 2004 and third in 2005.

The 2003 season marked the inauguration of a new home course for Connecticut College at Harkness Memorial State Park in nearby Waterford, Conn. The open grass fields of the park are beautifully set on the shores of Long Island Sound, where the Camels have conducted tempo runs and interval training sessions for many years. Connecticut College hosted the ECAC Division III Championship on the Harkness Park course last fall, and upcoming major meets to be held there include the 2007 & 2008 New England Division III Championships.

Results for the 2006 NESCAC Cross Country Championships will be available Saturday evening at www.nescac.com.

--courtesy NESCAC--