Cross country regional performance bittersweet

The weekend ended with both happiness and disappointment for the College’s cross country teams, as the men’s team earned a spot in the NCAA Division III championships, while the women’s team failed to qualify.

Held Saturday at St. Lawrence University, the NCAA Division III Atlantic Regional Championships ended with a first-place finish for the men’s team. They will move on to the Division III championships at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Nov. 20.

“I could not be more satisfied with the race,” senior Brian Donovan said. “It is a cool feeling.”

Donovan, running in his first race in almost a month, led the team with a third-place finish in the 8-km run with a time of 25:12.9. He had not been running due to an injury.

While the injury still bothers him a little, Donovan said that “nothing really bothers you during the race.”

Senior Matt Molski was the next Lion to cross the finish line, earning sixth place with a time of 25:31.2. “Molski had a big race,” head coach Tim Collins said. “It was his best cross country race ever.”

Joe Lacovara-Switzer took 13th place in 25:47.3 and freshman Brian Kopnicki, who came in 16th place with a time of 25:251.2, was the first freshman runner to cross the finish the line in the entire race.

Donovan, Molski, Lacovara-Switzer, Kopnicki and sophomore Dave dos Santos, who came in 29th place, were all honored for their performances on Saturday with a spot on the 2004 All-Region team.

“They have done everything we hoped that they would do,” Collins said. “Getting into the top 10 in nationals would make it the perfect season.”

The men’s team will try to do just that next week in Wisconsin. Individually, each runner will be vying to place in the top 35 and earn All-American honors.

“We have a real solid team,” Donovan said. “We can do some great stuff next week.”

Meanwhile, the women’s team suffered a major disappointment when they came in fourth place in the regional championships. Only the top two schools advance to the Division III championships.

“The team is disappointed and I am disappointed,” Collins said.

However, there were some positives for the women’s team. The second-place finish by junior Jenna Fasulo earned her an individual spot in the championships next weekend. She had a time of 22:39.5 on the 6,000-meter course. She was in control for most of the race but then lost by a stride at the finish.

“It was an outstanding effort,” Collins said.

Although the rest of the team did not fare as well, all seven Lions runners placed in the top 35 to earn All-Region honors.

Freshman Erin Enderly’s 18th place finish (23:15.4) was the best Lions time behind Fasulo. Senior Meghan O’Halloran took 19th place in 23:19.2.

Freshman Julie Ullmeyer finished in 23rd place in 23:25.2, just ahead of freshman Jenna Bauberger, who placed 26th in 23:28.5. Freshman Sarah Best picked up 32nd place with her time of 23:31.4 and sophomore Kristen Pogorzelski took home 33rd place in 23:34.4.

Donovan noticed that while the runners of other schools were established in packs during the race, the Lions women were too spread out.

“You have to have tight packs to win,” he said.

“It is a young team,” Collins said. “They did not have a lot of experience. I guess it was a little bit too much to overcome.”

The team did lose three key runners from last season and was stocked with freshman runners. This does not take away the disappointment from this season but does lead to a positive outlook for next season.

“They are not ready just yet to make it to nationals,” Collins said. “But they will be very good in the future.”