Last Sunday, the men and women’s cross country teams competed in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship in Manchester, Connecticut, with both teams placing higher than their seeds and recording memorable individual performances.
The NESCAC is the most competitive conference in Division III collegiate running—nearly half of the teams hold a national ranking. Sunday’s championship displayed the true depth and difficulty of the conference, but Head Coach Ben Raphelson said this is what makes the championship so special.
“It pushes us to be better, it’s hard to ever get complacent,” Raphelson said. “There are a lot of other conferences in the country … but we’re in the NESCAC, and that was going to push us to be better than we would be if we were in a different conference.”
Despite the muddy conditions of the Wickham Park course, the day still brought numerous highlights. Both the men’s and women’s teams moved up in their overall rankings during the last mile of their respective races, an achievement accomplished by no other team. This display of strength so late in the race reflected the pacing strategies that Coach Raphelson stressed to his team prior to the meet.
“By working on different elements of our overall race strategy, by the time we got to NESCAC, it was just a matter of … managing [our] energy in the early miles of the race so that [we] weren’t going out too hard,” Raphelson said.
Additionally, Leila Trummel ’23 and men’s captain John Hood ’22 recorded standout performances. Trummel placed 12th out of 144 runners in the 6000 meter race, while Hood placed 21st out of 146 competitors in the 8000 meter race.
Their teammates’ excitement for their success highlights the team’s positive and supportive spirit.
“It’s been really fun to see a lot of my senior friends and classmates run themselves into this race and then perform so well,” men’s captain Andrew Meredith ’22 said. “[These are] people that I’ve been training with for years, and they’re my closest friends.”
Out of 11 teams competing on Sunday, the men’s team finished ninth overall and the women’s team finished eighth. Both of these finishes were higher than the Polar Bears’ pre-meet seedings, and Raphelson praised the team for its strong performances, despite the course’s difficulty.
“It was nice to see them execute the strategy that they’ve been preparing and talking about and in really brutal conditions,” Raphelson said. “[The coaches] were pretty pleased.”
Women’s captain Cameron MacKenzie ’22 echoed Raphelson’s thoughts regarding the challenges and dangers the course presented.
“You had to be really careful about your footing because the entire thing was like a mudslide and [there were] parts where … you were just sinking into the mud,” MacKenzie said. “Unfortunately one of my teammates actually tweaked his foot because the footing was so bad.”
Despite the treacherous course conditions and stiff competition, the Polar Bears banded together to achieve success and to participate in the tightly-knit, like-minded running community that the NESCAC provides.
“The level of competition is so high, and you can take that as demoralizing, but really I take it as inspiring,” Meredith said. “We’re out there running against so many people who go to schools like Bowdoin and do similar things, and we all show up on one day and just go head to head. It is a really fun experience.”
The polar bears hope to continue their strong season on November 13 at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) East Regional in Franklin Park, Massachusetts.