Cross country lags a step behind competition at UAA championships

By Wayne

Seeking to overcome an inconsistent start to the season, men’s and women’s cross country struggled to reclaim last year’s form against the class of the UAA.

In the first of a series of crucial end-of-season meets, both Maroons squads came up short in their bid for second place at the UAA championships in St. Louis. After finishing no worse than third for each of the last five seasons, the men dropped to fifth overall with 118 points, while the women fell one place from last season, to fourth, with 79 points. Fourth-years Brian Hague and Emil Bojanov led the way for the men, capturing All-UAA honors after finishing 10th and 12th out of 78 runners. The women were paced by fourth-year Dilshanie Perera and classmate Abby Sheldon, who crossed the line in 8th and 14th.

Third-ranked NYU took top team honors on the men’s side with 25 points while Case unseated defending champion and host Wash U for the women’s title with 42 points. The weekend’s performance served as a reminder of the improvements the Maroons must continue to make as they prepare for the Midwest Regional, which takes place on November 11.

Entering the meet with an optimistic goal of taking second place, the men ran into stiff resistance in the form of a unexpectedly strong Brandeis squad. The Judges pulled off the surprise of the meet, tying Wash U for second place, while Carnegie Mellon edged out Chicago for fourth place.

“Some of our runners were just tired, and they just need some time to recover,” head coach Chris Hall said. “Sometimes when people are in there, and you don’t expect it, it shakes your confidence a bit.”

Hague finished the eight-kilometer course in 25:51 and Bojanov in 26:07. Barely missing out on league honors, third-year Ryan McCarl missed the All-UAA team by just three places, coming in 17th with a time of 26:21.

“I don’t think anyone on the team is satisfied with placing fifth in the UAA. We expected to do better than that this season,” said fourth-year captain Chetan Huded, who competed in the open race following the varsity event. “It’s definitely disappointing. That being said, I honestly don’t know what we could have done differently. I feel like we had a great attitude, we worked hard, and we did everything the right way. It just didn’t work out the way we hoped.”

After losing a competitor to an exercise-induced asthma attack 4,000 meters into the race, the women dropped to a fourth place finish, while the Spartans took the title, Wash U claimed second, and Emory fell in third place. In addition to Perera and Sheldon, two other runners narrowly missed the all-UAA cutoff. Second-year Rachel Venezia claimed 16th place with a time of 23:42 and fourth-year Jackie Kropp ran in 17th place in 23:43.

“Our women’s conference is just loaded up front, but I think our girls ran very well,” Hall said. “That [asthma attack] was not something we could have expected going into the meet, so that was a surprise. We could have been third. I was really pleased with how all of our girls ran.”

After a weekend of misfortune and disappointment, the Maroons will look to build on their experiences as they get set for the upcoming regional meet. Facing off and holding their own against Wash U will only help the Maroons, who will face the Bears again at the regional. While both squads harbor NCAA hopes, the men have their work cut out for them if they hope to repeat last season’s best-ever ninth-place finish at nationals.

“We’ll regroup and make an effort to extend our season to the national championship meet,” Huded said. “I still feel like we have a great race in us. Hopefully, we can do it at regionals.”

“On the women’s side, we have realistic goals of going on to the NCAAs,” Hall said. “We’re going to have to be in top five in the region to do that, and that’s definitely an attainable goal. Right now, we have a few people feeling a little pressure and feeling the need to go right now, but I was proud of the heart our teams showed.”