Runners continue the College’s NJAC dominance

The College’s cross country teams put together striking performances over the past two weeks at a pair of invitationals, running well in anticipation of competing for a pair of NJAC conference championships this upcoming Saturday.

“We’re really improving from the first meet,” junior Johnny Arnold said. “The whole team is just getting better and better after every meet.”

At the Connecticut College Invitational meet, held on Oct. 15, the men’s and women’s teams each finished in the top third of their fields.

Senior Rob Nihen ran strong on Friday. (Courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

Veterans led the way for the men’s team, which earned third place out of 14 teams in the 8k event, as four of the five point-scorers were seniors, including Alex Yersak.

Yersak stormed past most of the event’s 211 runners, and with a time of 26:10, earned last week’s NJAC Player of the Week award and an impressive seventh-place finish in the race.

Senior Andrew Herschman (18th place), sophomore Domini Tasco (19th), senior Nick Bond (25th), and senior Shaun McGeever (32nd) also contributed to the College’s point total.

Progress was the theme of the College’s performance in Connecticut. The College’s top five runners combined for an average time of 26:45, an improvement over past meets, and Yersak’s 26:10 run was a 36-second improvement over his performance at last month’s College Brown 8k.

Results in Connecticut were similarly positive for the women’s team, which finished fourth out of 17 teams overall.

“We’re finally coming together and hope we can take that next step to defend our NJAC throne and receive a national bid,” junior Cathy Goncalves said.

Goncalves (12th) and sophomore Megan Flynn (13th) finished with identical times of 22:55, finishing 10 seconds behind the winning time, while junior Rachel Morris (25th), sophomore Anginelle Alabanza (28th) and senior Alyssa Bannon (33rd) helped ensure the College’s fourth-place finish.

The top five runners averaged 23:11, a massive 22-second improvement over their last performance in September.

The College also found success at the Haverford Invitational, a low-key event held Friday, Oct. 20.

The races were short, and there were no team scores, but the Haverford meet was a chance for runners to have fun and post positive individual times.

“It was nice to go out into a meet without a lot of pressure,” said Arnold, who ran the 4-mile event in 21:04. “Everybody performed well.”

Senior Rob Nihen paced the men’s team with a time of 21:02, while freshman Liz Johnson led the Lions in the three-mile event with a time of 19:06.

Nihen finished 26th in a field of 110, while Johnson finished 12th out of 77 runners.

Manzo (14th) and freshman Tara Nealon (17th) also finished in the top 20 for the women’s team.

The Haverford meet was the College’s last meet before this weekend, when the cross country teams fight to retain conference championships held for nearly two decades.

Even though it will be a difficult challenge, both teams feel prepared to continue the College’s culture of success on Saturday.

The men’s and women’s teams will be fighting for their 17th and 16th consecutive conference titles, respectively.

“We just need to remain focused and determined in order to continue our NJAC tradition,” Goncalves said.

Arnold agreed: “We feel confident we’re going to win, but it’s going to be tough.”