While most students enjoyed a well-deserved break from college life last weekend, Bowdoin’s cross country teams travelled to Boston to compete against fellow NESCAC and some Division I teams in the New England Invitational after placing first in both the Bowdoin Invitational I and II.
The men’s team placed 16th of 27 teams and the women ranked 18th of 28 in the Invitational. Sarah Kelley ’18 and Ben Torda ’18 both placed fourth out of Division III entries in their respective events, with Kelley completing the 5K with a time of 18:29.7 and Torda finishing the 8K at 25:54.7.
According to women’s captain Julia O’Rourke ’19, the historic New England Invitational is an exciting race due to the variety of teams and the location. The race is held in Franklin Park and the trail passes some abandoned structures from the Franklin Park Zoo’s early days.
“You start out on a field and you funnel in within the first 400 [meters] or less and that’s really difficult. You’ll see some collisions there. It’s exciting–I got spiked,” said O’Rourke, referring to getting hit with the spikes on running shoes. “And then you go up Bear Cage Hill which is kind of pebbly. It’s pretty hard, but then you come up on this big bear cage thing and it’s hilarious.”
Currently, the Bowdoin men’s cross country team is ranked 10th in the New England Region while the women’s team is 8th. However, last Saturday was the first time the cross country teams encountered NESCAC competition this season.
“[The rankings] are based somewhat on who you have coming back and who they know you [have] for freshmen,” said Head Coach Peter Slovenski. “But a lot of these [teams] haven’t run against each other yet so the rankings are kind of guesses.”
Slovenski would like to see each team rank 5th in NESCAC, and 6th in the region by the end of the season.
The Bowdoin cross country team has over 40 runners between the men’s and women’s teams, but only the scorer of the first seven actually benefits the team.
To become competitive in NESCAC, the cross country teams will have to work to reduce the time gap between their first and fifth runners. The women’s team has a gap of 80 seconds while the men’s team has a gap of 50 seconds.
“[It] would be an important consideration for the women’s team to try to reduce the gap to get under 60 seconds,” said Slovenski. “It’s an interesting challenge when you’ve got such a strong number one runner as Sarah, but our number 4,5,6 runners … [will] be able to close the gap in that way too.”
On the men’s team, fast times in the JV race speak to the team’s depth and indicate a promising future for the program.
“First years in the JV race were leading the team and their times were even getting competitive with the varsity race, which was really exciting to see,” said men’s captain Sean MacDonald ’19. “It was hot, so we had a lot of people that struggled with the heat, but overall it was very exciting and promising to see some of the times given the conditions and size of the race. I think [we] adapted really well, which is going to be key moving forward.”
This confidence is especially important as team priorities begin focusing on NESCAC placement as the state and regional meets draw near.
“This is where we start focusing less on time and more on team place,” said MacDonald, “So our strategy is going to make sure we’re keeping up with those other [NESCAC] teams and competing well and trying to place Bowdoin as well as we can.”
The next meet is on Saturday at home on the Pickard Cross Country Course, where the team is hoping to continue its streak after two wins.
“Those wins are huge in the confidence sense,” said O’Rourke, “Because we are doing the exact same course again [and] we’ve done it well twice. To go and do it another time will be simple.”