After the last two races for the men’s cross country team, there is only one way to characterize the team’s overwhelming sentiment: disappointment.
After a tenth-place finish Saturday in Boston, Mass. at the NCAA Northeast Region Championships, team members said nagging injuries, the absence of several key runners, and poor performances on the course have cost the Elis in their biggest races of the season.
Iona dominated on Franklin Park’s 10K course, taking three of the top six individual places and winning in convincing fashion with 33 points. Dartmouth, the newly crowned Ancient Eight champion, finished second, followed by Providence College. By way of their top-two finishes, both Iona and Dartmouth earned slots in the 32-team Nationals field to be contested on Nov. 21, with Providence left hoping for an at-large selection. The other Ivy League competitors all finished in the top eight — Cornell was 4th, Brown and Columbia tied for 5th, and Harvard placed 8th.
Iona’s Richard Kiplagat won the individual title in 29:11.2, followed by Providence’s Martin Fagan and Dartmouth’s Ben True, who won the Ivy League’s individual championship two weeks ago at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.
Andrew Pitts ’07 led the Bulldogs for the third straight race, finishing 41st in 31:23.4. Pitts was trailed by Brian Gertzen ’07 (52nd, 31:40.3), captain Pat Dantzer ’06 (72nd, 31:59.0), Andrew Samuel ’09 (99th, 32:48.6) and Eric Kerchberger ’08 (101st, 32:51.4).
As has been the case all season, several big names missed the race. Adding to a growing list of injured scorers, Jared Bell ’09 joined early-season casualties Jake Gallagher ’09 and Tadhq O’Callaghan ’08 outside the ropes. An Achilles injury suffered two weeks ago left Bell unable to recover in time.
“After Heps, with my Achilles the way it was, it didn’t make any sense to rush to get ready for this weekend, especially with the possibility of hurting it worse in a 10K race,” Bell said. “It happens. It’s just really unfortunate that it happened to so many of our best runners at the same time in the season.”
Dantzer, who had inexplicably struggled at Pre-Nationals and Heps, may have found an answer to his questions as well. He said he had felt short of breath, perhaps from lingering sickness, but a common cold seemed an unlikely excuse. Last week Dantzer was diagnosed with anemia, which causes shortness of breath as a result of iron deficiency. He said the recent revelation significantly affected his race strategy.
“Personally, I thought I ran as hard as I could,” Dantzer said. “I tried to do a better job this week of going out conservatively.”
Erik Brown ’06, a consistent scorer who has spent his entire career battling injury, missed the varsity race. After taking the GRE, Brown rushed to Franklin Park but was forced to compete in the JV flight instead.
Pitts said that Brown’s strong performance in the JV race helped give the team a sense of hope, especially in light of his continuous battles.
“He not only raced well, but he raced with the toughness he’s shown through the whole season,” Pitts said.
After a performance like this weekend’s, in which the Elis finished last among Ivy representatives, team members are forced to search for small victories. Brown’s appearance and success gave the team a boost. Gertzen raced well too, finishing second on the team despite competing in his first-ever 10K race.
But small victories will not be able to water down the sour taste left in the Elis’ mouths after Regionals and Heps. Pitts said finishing behind the Crimson, a team the Bulldogs had bested at Harvard-Yale and Heps, added insult to injury.
“You want to beat Harvard at all costs, so obviously it’s a huge disappointment,” he said. “And yeah, I think it’s an indication of how the weekend went. We raced horribly.”
Dantzer voiced similar sentiments to Pitts and touched on the compounding injuries that plagued the Elis late in the season. Many members of the team said the disappointments of the season had little to do with personal failures, but were caused by inexplicably bad luck that piled up in the season’s later weeks.
“This has probably been about as bad as a season could’ve gone,” Dantzer said. “I just hope the guys who are sticking around, who’ll be here next year, remember what it was like to be at the bottom and never want to be there again.”
With the meat of the season gone, the team is looking ahead to a race next Saturday, the season’s last, as a chance for some redemption. The IC4A Championship, which will entail a return trip to Van Cortlandt Park, will include many full squads and a few depleted ones. Some teams, especially those who earned a bid to Nationals, will race JV runners in order to rest. But for several seniors on the team, next Saturday’s race will be the last of their cross country careers.
“We’re just going to go out there and run hard, run proud for those guys in their last collegiate race,” Dantzer said.