Coming off a fourth-place finish at last year’s Division III Cross Country National Championships, the Amherst men’s cross country team looks to improve upon its impressive 2017 campaign.
Prior to their podium finish at Nationals, the Mammoths won the NESCAC Championships for the first time in program history and placed all five scoring runners on All-NESCAC teams, a feat achieved by finishing 14th or better. Amherst also made history by defeating Williams at the Little Three Championships, ending the Ephs 29-year winning streak at the meet.
This year, head coach Cassie Funke-Harris and assistant coaches Danny Feldman and Chris Plankey coach the men’s and women’s teams. This will be Plankey’s first year coaching cross country at Amherst, as he led the short sprinters during the indoor and outdoor track seasons last year.
The Mammoths return five of their top seven runners from 2017, losing only top runner Mohamed Hussein ’18, Jack Wesley ’18, the team’s seventh runner, and Justin Barry ’18, the team’s alternate, to graduation.
Senior captains Cosmo Brossy, Tucker Meijer and Kristian Sogaard, all of whom competed at nationals last year, will lead the Mammoths this fall.
Brossy was Amherst’s third runner at nationals, placing 82nd overall, and will hope to have a strong fall on the grass after qualifying for nationals in both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year. Indoors, Brossy ran the 1,600-meter anchor leg of the nationals-qualifying distance medley relay team and qualified in the 3,000 meters as well. Outdoors, he finished second at the NESCAC championship meet in the 5k and placed 10th in the same event at nationals.
Meijer’s improvement during the 2017 fall was critical for the team’s success, as he consistently was Amherst’s fourth runner. He will enter into the season with momentum after setting a new personal best in the 10,000 meters at the outdoor NESCAC Track & Field Championship, running a time of 31:52.
Sogaard specializes in the 800 meters during the track seasons, earning All-American honors in the event indoors and helping the Mammoths qualify for the 4×400-meter relay during the spring season. He successfully defended his NESCAC title in the 800 meters and anchored the 4×800-meter relay to victory at the conferance meet.
Clark Ricciardelli ‘20E returns to campus with a season of cross country experience under his belt, as the junior ran his first-ever season of collegiate cross country last fall, closing his debut season by earning All-American honors with a 33rd place finish at nationals. After taking time off during the indoor season due to injuries, Ricciardelli returned to the track for the outdoor season and once again earned All-American honors with an eighth place finish in the 10,000-meter race at outdoor nationals.
A critical piece to the Mammoths’ season in 2018 will be Spencer Ferguson-Dryden ’20, who had an incredible race at cross country nationals in 2017, placing 111th overall to finish as the team’s fourth runner. The junior also ran the 1,200-meter leg for the distance medley relay team that qualified for nationals and set a personal best in the 5,000 meters during the outdoor season.
Upperclassmen Ermias Kebede ’19, Jacob Silverman ’19, Ralph Skinner ’20, Chris Stone ’20 and Estevan Velez ’20 will all look to have successful seasons on the trails and provide veteran leadership for the rest of the team.
The Mammoths also boast a strong core of underclassmen runners. A sophmore class of Jamie Mazzola, Braxton Schuldt and Billy Massey return to the grass after strong track seasons. Meanwhile, transfer student Ajay Sarathy ’21 will come to the Pioneer Valley after spending his first year of college at the University of Pennsylvania, adding to Amherst’s strength.
A strong group of incoming first years will join the Mammoths, as Lev Robertson, Matthew Bradley, Owen Daily, Will Merhige and Majd Rouhana will hope to replace last year’s talented senior class.
“We’re really excited to get the season started and establish ourselves as a program after all of last year’s success,” said Brossy. “Our expectations for ourselves are definitely higher than ever despite graduating a few key members of the team. I’m most excited to watch who steps up and fills those gaps in the coming weeks.” The Mammoths kick off their 2018 campaign with what they hope will be a successful defense of the Little Three Championships, which Amherst will host on Saturday, Sept. 8.