Cross Country Teams Prepare For NESCAC Championship

October 24, 2007

The 2007 NESCAC Cross Country Championships will take place this Saturday at Mt. Greylock High School in Williamstown, Mass. The 25th annual championship will be hosted by Williams College, with the event getting underway at 12:00 p.m. with the start of the women's 6-kilometer championship race and will be followed at 1:00 p.m. by the men's 8-kilometer championship race.

Amherst earned its first NESCAC Women's Cross Country Championship last year at Connecticut College, battling both the elements and the rest of the conference to claim the 2006 title. While the Jeffs will be without the services of Shauneen Garrahan, a former All-NESCAC member who graduated in May, they are poised to make a run for the 2007 crown. Amherst has had an impressive autumn, placing first at four meets while finishing second at the New England Championship on Oct. 6 in Boston with strong performances from junior Elise Tropiano (Plainview, N.Y.) and senior co-captains Heather Wilson (Danvers, Mass.) and Kim Partee (Brentwood, Tenn.). Tropiano finished the New England Championship in sixth, the highest finish by any NESCAC runner, while Wilson and Partee, both 2006 NESCAC All-Conference honorees, were close behind in seventh and 12th, respectively. During the Purple Valley Classic at Mt. Greylock on Sept. 22, Amherst finished first with Tropiano crossing the finish line as the top NESCAC runner, coming in second.

The 2006 championship was one of the tightest finishes in the history of the event, as first place was separated from fourth place by just seven points. Finishing five points behind Amherst's 64-point performance was runner-up Tufts, which was paced by the one-two showing of Katy O'Brien (North Easton, Mass.) and Catherine Beck (Brookline, N.H.) to give the Jumbos their best championship performance since winning the race in 1987. The senior duo helped Tufts finish 15th at the New England Championship, fifth among the NESCAC teams participating in the event, as Beck placed ninth while O'Brien, the 2006 Most Outstanding Performer, was 65th.

Other teams to watch this weekend include Williams, Middlebury and Bowdoin. Williams and Middlebury rounded out the top four teams at last year's championship as the Ephs claimed third by one point over the Panthers. Prior to Amherst's first championship last fall, Middlebury and Williams had combined to win the previous 10 championships, with the Panthers earning five titles to the Ephs four and a shared title between the two squads in 2004. During the New England Championship, Williams finished second among NESCAC teams with a fifth-place showing, as junior Rachel Asher (Lake Bluff, Ill.), senior Elizabeth Robie (Raleigh, N.C.) and sophomore Moira Yoe (Yarmouth, Maine) were the top three runners for the Ephs in the event. Middlebury, which won its fourth NCAA Women's Cross Country title last year by one point over Amherst, has been paced this season by junior Alexandra Krieg (Wellesley, Mass.). Krieg has recorded four top-10 finishes this season, including a first-place showing on Sept. 15 at the Panther Invitational and a ninth-place finish at the New England Championship. Bowdoin will look to earn a spot in the top five for the first time since 2002, as the Polar Bears, winners of two NESCAC titles (1992, 1995), have finished first at three meets so far this fall. At the New England Championship, Bowdoin was third among NESCAC squads by placing eighth at the event with Laura Onderko (Glastonbury, Conn.) pacing the Polar Bears.

After winning the NESCAC Men's Cross Country crown last year for the first time since 2000, Williams will look to make it two-in-a-row this weekend when the Ephs vie for a NESCAC-best 10th title. Williams literally ran away with the 2006 title, placing five runners in the top-10 and finishing with a 51-point margin over runner-up Bowdoin. While three from the group of five that helped the Ephs secure last year's championship have since graduated, Williams has not missed a beat. The Ephs have won two of their meets this fall, including the Purple Valley Classic at Mt. Greylock, and were a NESCAC-best fifth at the New England Championship. Junior Brendan Christian (Chicago, Ill.) was third at last year's NESCAC championship, the highest finisher for the Ephs, and placed 18th at the Purple Valley Classic just over a month ago. Sophomore Edgar Kosgey (Eldoret Rift Valley, Kenya) has had an impressive season so far for Williams, as he has paced his team on multiple occasions, including a fourth-place finish at the Purple Valley Classic.

Looking to unseat the defending champions will be a host of teams, most notably Bowdoin and Amherst. The Polar Bears, winners of three NESCAC titles, had their best finish at the championship last year since winning back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002. Bowdoin has finished first at all but one meet it has participated in this autumn, placing 11th at the New England Championship to rank third among NESCAC participants. Seniors John Hall (Bow, N.H.) and Nathan Krah (Bradenton, Fla.) along with sophomore Thompson Ogilvie (Hopedale, Mass.) have guided the Polar Bears this season and will look to improve upon their performances from last year's championship this weekend at Williams. Amherst heads into the championship with the hopes of surpassing a third-place finish at last year's championship, one of only two top-five showings for the Lord Jeffs this decade. Amherst came in eighth at the New England Championship and was second to Williams at the Purple Valley Classic, as the tandem of senior Florian Reichert (Hannover, Germany) and freshman Will Yochum (Goleta, Calif.) are in the midst of a solid first year for the Jeffs.

The competition for the individual title will be just as intense as the battle for the team championship this weekend. Trinity junior Hunter Norte (Ellington, Conn.) returns to this year's championship looking to defend his individual title from 2006. Norte, the 2005 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and 2006 Most Outstanding Performer, won the Trinity Invitational on Sept. 8 and the UMass Dartmouth Invitational on Sept. 15 before setting a personal record on an 8-kilometer course at the Lehigh Invitational on Sept. 28 with a time of 24:40, finishing the race in 15th. Challengers to Norte's title will include Hamilton sophomore Peter Kosgei (Kapsabet, Kenya), who has had an impressive campaign for the Continentals. Kosgei has finished first at six meets so far this fall, including placing first at the Purple Valley Classic with a time of 25:07, a personal-best that surpassed the next varsity runner by 30 seconds.

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

--courtesy NESCAC--