The College’s cross country teams were caught in a whirlwind of great expectations and poor weather while fighting for NJAC championships on Saturday afternoon, and while it all went according to plan for the men’s team, an excellent performance from the women’s team was topped by rival Rowan University’s jaw-dropping finish.
In what junior Cathy Goncalves described as “one of the fastest team races (the College) has ever seen”, the women’s team finished with impressive times across the board but slipped to second place out of six teams, ending the College’s streak of 16 consecutive NJAC championships.
The Lions averaged 22:39 — a 32-second improvement over their last performance at the Connecticut College Invitational, and showed spirit in a hotly contested meet.
“I can sincerely say we ran our hearts out yesterday,” Goncalves said. “Each and every person on the team improved their time by a substantial amount.”
Both the College and Rowan each finished with five of the top 10 times, but Rowan took the top three spots. This proved to be the difference in a race that ended 21-34 between the two teams.
Goncalves (fourth), sophomore Megan Flynn (fifth), Katie Nestor (sixth), Rachel Morris (ninth) and Anginelle Alabanza (10th) all recorded great finishes in the race’s field of 73 runners, despite the downpour and overall poor weather conditions.
“It might sound cliché, but we won in spirit,” Goncalves said.
The men’s team also had its share of drama at the NJAC conference championship game, but edged Rowan, 26-36, for the College’s 18th consecutive men’s title.
Conquering nasty weather and a fierce rival made the routine win sweeter than usual for the Lions.
“In past years, winning the conference didn’t mean so much,” senior Andrew Herschman said. “But the conference has been getting better and better. This year, it felt really awesome to win it.”
Led by sophomore Dominic Tasco, who earned second place out of 94 runners, the College captured five of the top 10 times and four of top six, dominating most of the other six teams at the event.
Herschman (fourth), senior Shaun McGeever (fifth), junior Andy Gallagher (sixth) and senior Rob Nihen (ninth) also contributed to the College’s point total.
Both of the College’s cross country teams next compete on Nov. 12, when they will participate in the Atlantic Regional Championships at St. Lawrence College.
The Lions are already looking ahead to Regionals, where they could run season-defining races and prove they deserve a pair of nationals berths.
“We’re there at regionals to make a statement: We’re the (College’s) cross country team, and we can go to nationals,” Herschman said.