Men’s Cross Country Claims Second Straight NESCAC Championship
After winning their first ever NESCAC title in 2017, the Mammoths defended their conference crown on Saturday to win the championship meet once again. Amherst scored 60 points to Williams’ 86 and Middlebury’s 88, erasing any doubts over the Mammoths’ quality.
Prior to the race, Amherst biggest title challengers were expected to be the Ephs and Panthers, both of which had bested the Mammoths earlier in the season.
The race was originally scheduled to begin at 1 p.m, but with heavy rains and strong winds in the forecast for Saturday, the race was moved to 11 a.m. to avoid the worst of the nor’easter sweeping through the area. The inclement weather, however, still proved a major challenge for runners throughout the race.
Tufts hosted the race, which was run at Franklin Park in Boston, a famous cross-country course that hosts major races such as the World Cross Country Championships and the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) Championships. The course usually produces fast times, but with the extreme weather conditions on Saturday, that was not the case for the NESCAC Cross Country Championships.
There was a large pack in the early stages of the men’s race, but by the one-mile mark, the Mammoths held key positions at the front of the race, showing early signs of a successful title defense.
At the three-mile mark, captains Cosmo Brossy ’19 and Tucker Meijer ’19 were at the front of the race, as the leading pack had dwindled to a handful of runners. Clark Ricciardelli ’20E was in striking distance and continued to pass runners as the race progressed. With 400 meters to go, Brossy had worked his way into a pack of four runners, all of whom were fighting for the individual title. Although Brossy ended up in third, his effort spurred the Mammoths on to victory.
As a first year at the meet in 2015, Brossy finished 54th as Amherst’s eighth runner, and went on to run as the fifth runner on the championship winning team last year. Since his first year, he has earned All-NESCAC honors every year in cross country season and improved upon his finish every year, helping the Mammoths earn two NESCAC championships along the way.
Ricciardelli maneuvered his way through the tough conditions to finish in sixth, and Meijer placed 10th, improving upon his 14th place finish at the meet last year. The trio all earned All-NESCAC honors by virtue of placing in the top 14 runners. Both Ricciardelli and Meijer earned All-NESCAC honors for the second time in their careers, after placing fourth and 14, respectively, in 2017.
Coming off a great race at the Connecticut College Invitational two weeks ago, Ajay Sarathy ’21 had an even better showing at Franklin Park, placing 16th as the team’s important fourth runner and just missing out on All-NESCAC honors by two spots. Nonetheless, Sarathy’s finish was critical to Amherst to defend its title, as the transfer student finished as the highest-scoring fourth runner of any team by five points.
The best performance of the day came from Billy Massey ’21, who placed 25th as the team’s fifth runner to seal the title for the Mammoths. The sophomore held off four Williams runners at the finish line, demonstrating the speed that carried him to a seventh-place finish in the 1,500-meter race at the NESCAC Track and Field Championships in the spring. Last year, the sophomore placed 122nd at the championship meet, a remarkable improvement in just one year.
Spencer Ferguson-Dryden ’20 also had his best race of the season, placing 33rd as the team’s sixth runner. Just behind him was Kristian Sogaard ’19 in 36th as the team’s seventh runner.
Sogaard is the two-time NESCAC 800-meter champion, and the range of distances he excels at has proved critical for the Mammoths.
Both Sogaard and Ferguson-Dryden helped the team win the NESCAC title last year as well. Beyond the scoring top seven, Jamie Mazzola ’21 had a great race to place 54th as the team’s eighth runner. Not far behind him was Estevan Velez ’20, who claimed 63rd. The junior has been in the Mammoths’ top-seven twice this season.
Mid-distance aces Ralph Skinner ’20 and Jack Malague ’19 placed 86th and 99th, respectively, while Braxton Schuldt ’21 finished just behind Malague in 101st place.
The trio of Chris Stone ’20, Will Merhige ’22 and Matthew Bradley ’22 rounded out the Amherst harriers, and this bright performance from the Amherst underclassmen bodes well for the Mammoths’ future.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough battle because of the great competition, but it’s a good confidence boost to get the win,” said Meijer. “We’re now just really looking forward to regionals and nationals and to really excel in the postseason.”
Next, the Mammoths will travel north to Bowdoin to compete at the New England Regional Championships on Saturday, Nov. 10, seeking to book their fifth consecutive trip to nationals. Last year, the Mammoths placed second at regionals to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, automatically qualifying for the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championships, and Amherst seeks to repeat that automatic qualification in Maine.