Nationals did not go as planned for the College’s cross country teams. The men’s team finished in 18th place, while women’s team representative, junior Jenna Fasulo, came in 86th at the event held on Nov. 20 at Whitetail Golf Course and hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Expectations were high for both the men’s team and Fasulo individually, following great runs at the 2004 NCAA Division III Atlantic Regional Championships on Nov. 13 after the men’s team won the NCAA Regional Championship title to advance to the National competition.
The women’s team finished in fourth place and did not collectively advance to Nationals; however, Fasulo finished as the runner-up for the 2004 NCAA Atlantic Regional Champion title and earned an individual spot at the NCAA National Championships.
“We went in with high expectations for both the men’s team and Jenna Fasulo,” head coach Tim Collins said. “After the men won the Atlantic Region, we were hoping to challenge for a top 10 spot.”
Senior Brian Donovan was not satisfied with the College’s placing at Nationals.
“We’re not satisfied with 18th place,” Donovan said. “Any year we make it to Nationals we want to go out there and compete. Usually our goal is to be in the top 10 at the National race, and 18th place is not at all where we wanted to finish.”
Donovan set the pace for the Lions and finished in 46th place individually. Collins attributed Donovan’s placing to a fall the runner took in the beginning of the race.
“Our lead runner Brian Donovan fell early in the race and lost valuable time,” Collins said. “He was also exhausted from trying to catch up to the people he needed to be running with so he didn’t have the race he wanted to.”
Overall though, while Donovan said the fall did cause him to lose some time, he credits mental self-doubt as the reason the Lions fell below expectations in Nationals.
“I got right up after the fall, but there are so many fast people in the Nationals race that over 30 people had already passed me,” Donovan said. “Stuff like this happens in cross. It shouldn’t have affected my race that much.”
This is where Donovan says the mental aspects of cross-country running took over his race.
“I just wasn’t completely in it mentally and I started doubting myself throughout the race,” Donovan said. “That’s the absolute worst thing any cross country runner could do. Distance running is so mental and you need to stay focused and sharp the entire race or it won’t end well. That’s what happened on Saturday. A few of us Lions lost it, mentally, and that’s why we ran poorly.”
Fasulo was also expected to finish high in the individual standings at Nationals after her impressive showing at Regionals.
“Jenna was runner-up (at Regionals) and we thought she would have a chance for the top 35 or 50,” Collins said.
“I was not satisfied with the 86th place showing at nationals,” Fasulo said. “Although I improved from placing 129th last year, based on this season, I had still hoped to perform better. My coach told me to shoot for the top 50 and I felt that was a feasible goal considering the way I have been racing this cross country season.”
Although Fasulo, Donovan and the men’s cross country team collectively did not meet their high expectations for Nationals, Collins said this does not take away from the stellar cross country season on a whole.
“Although we didn’t race as well as we would have liked, that doesn’t detract from the outstanding job both teams did this year,” Collins said. “We’re still very proud of our accomplishments, especially Brian Donovan and Jenna Fasulo who had terrific seasons.”