Bulldogs finish first in invitational

Humidity and beating sun in league with a slick, mud-ridden race course — remnants of rain from the night before — as well as nearly 400 racers from a dozen other cross country squads were no match for the quick-paced men’s cross country team.

The Bulldogs ran past all of the competition at the Connecticut College Cross Country Invitational in Waterford, Conn. this past Saturday, in the first race of the season, scoring 33 points. The second-place finisher, Southern Connecticut, was far back with a 76. The Elis’ victory marked the first time that the team had finished with six of its runners under 26 minutes in the 8K.

“We definitely had a lot of guys doing well which will really help keep the energy level going,” Jared Bell ’09 said. “[The race] was a stepping stone for where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Andrew Pitts ’07 led the Elis, placing second with a time of 25:15. Trinity’s Hunter Norte was the only runner faster, crossing the finish line in 24:59.

Saturday’s victory was the result of intensive training undergone by the team in the previous weeks, Andrew Pitts ’07 said.

“We’ve been training really hard lately, and this wasn’t a meet to interrupt that schedule, so we ran right through it,” he said.

Before Saturday, the team had been running longer tempo workouts instead of intervals, which requires the runners to focus more on their endurance.

Although the Bulldogs were able to best the other teams easily, the varying terrain and unusually warm weather created their own challenges. The trail grass, wet with dew, made caution necessary for the runners racing the course, which followed the Long Island Sound.

The team’s success in the invitational bodes well for the rest of the season, captain David Napper ’07 said.

“We have a strong and motivated group this season and an outstanding freshman class,” he said.

Maxwell Brown ’10 stepped up to finish fifth for Yale and eleventh overall. Matthew Schaffer ’10 and Bryce Scanlan ’10 also showed promise while placing 66th and 67th, respectively, Napper said.

Along with the strength and promise of the freshman class, the team has a strong core of runners who emphasize the importance of sticking together and helping each other get better, Pitts said.

“We have a great team interaction and realize that by staying together we can take advantage of this,” he said. “We need to realize that there is no star player and that in order to get better we’ve got to count on each other.”

While most of the team believes that Saturday’s invitational is an indicator of a successful season to come, Pitts said there is still more to be done in the way of training.

“If we really want to do well, then we need to get two or three guys finishing under 25 minutes,” he said.

For now, team members said they don’t want to get ahead of themselves thinking too far into the future.

“We were definitely in top form [Saturday],” Bell said. “The key now is to keep improving week by week and to stay healthy.”

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