By George Tatoris
More than 500 cross country runners from schools across New York and New Jersey gathered for the NCAA Division III Atlantic Region Championships this Saturday, Nov. 14, which were hosted by SUNY Geneseo.
The Lions went in with high expectations — the men’s team was ranked third in the region and the women were ranked eighth. But the competition would turn out to be too much.
Both teams finished ninth out of 37 schools, failing to qualify for the NCAA National Championship as a team. The women had 241 points while the men had 264.
One of the most difficult obstacles was the sheer number of runners on the course — over 250 competitors were in each race.
“There were so many girls packed up and I got stuck on the inside of a lot of turns,” senior Carly Martz said.
In addition, with temperatures dropping around 20 degrees and only reaching the late 30s and early 40s this weekend, some runners found it difficult to adapt to the cold.
“For me, personally, it was kind of hard to breathe,” senior Marissa Lerit said.
The cold and the crowded course didn’t stop Lerit from being the first Lion across the finish in the women’s 6k, coming in at 22:58.0, earning her 32nd place.
Freshman Erin Holzbaur and Martz were the next two Lions across the finish line, coming in at 47th and 49th, respectively, with a runner from Rochester University in between them.
“I raced pretty much how I always race,” Martz said. “Unfortunately, this wasn’t the race to go out slow in.”
Martz said her first mile was shorter than what she wanted. To make matters worse, the crowds made it difficult to catch up. When she finally reached Holzbaur and freshman Madeleine Tattory ahead of her, she was exhausted, but Holzbaur encouraged her to pick up the pace.
Holzbaur came in at 23:16.7 and Martz at 23:19.9. Tattory came in 51st at 23:27.1. The final scoring runner was freshman Emma Bean, who came in at 62nd at 23:37.0.
The women’s team met expectations according to coach Justin Lindsey. Since five of the team’s top seven runners are freshmen, the young team will be able to grow.
“We will build on this season and look forward to the coming years with this group,” Lindsey said.
The men’s team did not see as much success as the women.
“The competition was very talented,” junior Andrew Tedeschi said.
Tedeschi was the first Lion across the finish line, coming in 12th, with a time of 25:43.9. While the team itself did not qualify for nationals, Tedeschi’s performance was enough to qualify him as an independent.
“I gave the race my best effort and I’m happy with how it went,” Tedeschi said.
The next Lion did not cross the finish line for another 30 seconds — senior Jon Stouber finished 34th with a time of 26:14.6.
After another 30-second gap, senior Roberto Guiducci crossed the finish line at 26:45.2, earning him 67th place.
Behind him, senior Tyler Grimm and junior Brandon Mazzarella finished with less than half a second between them. Grimm took 75th at 26:56.0 and Mazzarella took 76th at 26:56.2.
The ninth place finish was leagues below their third place seed.
“The men did not step up to the competition like we hoped they would,” Lindsey said. “They had an off day and it cost us.”
With this meet, cross country is done for the year. For seniors, it also marks the end of collegiate cross country.
“It was a great season,” Martz said. “I wish I had 100 more.”