By Danielle Silvia
The men’s cross country team, along with sophomore Natalie Cooper on the women’s team, have a long trip ahead for them on Saturday, Nov. 19, as they will travel to Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Division III Championship. The men’s team received an at-large bid while Cooper qualified individually after a successful outing in the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships.
On Saturday, Nov. 12, the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed against the top teams in the region at a meet hosted by Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. The men came in third place overall with their top finish in the region since 2007.
“The focus this year has been to get the men to believe in their own abilities,” head coach Justin Lindsey said. “In the past few years, our men’s team focused more on defending the conference title. This year was about redemption, and they committed themselves to proving they would be a NCAA caliber team.”
The top two teams in each region receive automatic bids to the Championship each year, while the rest of the teams might receive at-large bids. Although the men’s team did not place in the top two, they received an at-large bid on Sunday, Nov. 13, because of their strong performance at Regionals.
The male Lions began the race ranked sixth in the region and beat three teams in the race over the 8000-meter course. In the end, three runners placed in the top 40.
Andrew Tedeschi, a senior who has been leading the team, was in the top 15 of the race with a fast finish of 24:51. Additionally, junior Dale Johnson, who has also been a leader for this season’s team, finished in 27th place with a time of 25:08.
Many other Lions formed a pack as they also finished close together. Senior Brandon Mazzarella came in 36th place with a time of 25:23, while sophomore Quinn Wasko finished in 43rd place with a time of 25:29 and sophomore Matt Saponara finished in 48th place with a time of 25:38.
While State University of New York Geneseo won the race followed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the College’s men are on a great platform to continue their success until the end of the season.
The women came in 11th place overall in the 6000-meter race. Cooper lead the women’s team with a standout performance, placing sixth in the entire region. Cooper finished with a time of 21:03, making her an individual qualifier in the 2016 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. Lindsey believes Cooper’s next hurdle will be at the All-American level.
“Natalie is running on a level that projects she can be an All-American,” Lindsey said. “Coach Walker and I believe she has the mental focus to handle this type of championship environment.”
Other standouts include sophomore Madeline Tattory, the second to place for the College’s women’s team in 52nd overall with a time of 22:31. Just behind Tattory was junior Allison Fournier, coming in 63rd with a time of 22:38. Next, in fourth place for the lady Lions was Erin Holzbaur with a time of 22:39 in 70th. Tattory, Fournier and Holzbaur boasted an impressive spread of just eight seconds.
Finally, sophomore Emma Bean placed in fifth with a time of 22:55, and was in 85th for the entire race. Senior Caroline Moore crossed the finish line 131st with a time of 23:40, in her final race as a member of the cross country team.
The men and women teams continue to push on for the NCAA Division III Championship in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m. Lindsey believes the young team has a bright future.
“No matter what happens this weekend, the men’s team and Natalie will gain valuable experience from the NCAA championships,” Lindsey said. “Natalie is a sophomore and we have six men returning next year from this team.”