Men’s Cross Country Places Fourth At NCAA DIII National Championships
Issue   |   Tue, 11/28/2017 - 22:19

At the Division III National Cross Country Championships, the Amherst men’s cross country team placed fourth overall, the highest-ever finish in program history at the season-concluding meet. The Mammoths scored 251 points, just 18 points ahead of fifth-place Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to travelling to Elsah, Ill. for nationals, the Mammoths were ranked eighth in the nation and were not favorites for a podium finish. Furthermore, the team’s highest place finish before was ninth in 2014.

In years past, the national championship meet has been held on flatter courses, a disadvantage for the Mammoths and other teams from New England as harriers from this region are used to true cross country courses with hills and uneven terrain. This year’s course, however, had several hills, giving Amherst an advantage over teams not used to competing on hilly courses.

At the one-mile mark of the 8k race, the Mammoths found themselves in 20th place, as they had chosen to work their way up through race rather than getting out to a fast start and petering out as the race went on. Throughout the course, the Amherst harriers worked their way up into 10th at the two-mile mark and eighth by the three mile mark. A decisive fourth mile by the team’s runners put the Mammoth in fourth place with only one mile left to go in the race.

Amherst maintained the fourth-place position through the finish line, but the results were not made official until 30 minutes after the race, so the Mammoths had to wait for the official word before celebrating their historic finish.
Leading the way for Amherst was Mo Hussein ’18, who earned cross country All-American honors for the third time in his collegiate career by placing 23rd, his highest-ever finish at nationals.

Not far behind Hussein was Clark Ricciardelli ’20E who had a stellar race to place 33rd and also earn All-American honors. The sophomore was in 146th place at the mile mark but steadily moved up the 280-person field and closed with a 4:38 mile, the fourth-fastest of the race behind the top-three finishers. Cosmo Brossy ’19 closed a stellar junior cross country season to place 82nd as the team’s third runner. Less than 10 seconds behind him were teammates Spencer Ferguson-Dryden ’20 and Tucker Meijer ’19, who placed back to back in 111th and 112th, respectively. Ferguson-Dryden had a career-best race as the team’s fourth runner.

Behind the scoring five were Kristian Sogaard ’19, who placed 191st and Jack Wesley ’18, who closed his collegiate career with a 226th place finish. Captain Justin Barry ’18 also travelled to the meet to serve as the team’s alternate.

“It was a thrilling finish to a historic season,” senior Jack Wesley said. “We’ve been talking about getting on the podium for four years, and it feels incredible to actually do it. It was a great honor to be a member of this team, and I can’t wait to see what the guys will accomplish next year.”

Coaches Cassie Funke-Harris, who wrote the team’s workouts for the season, and Danny Feldman, who implemented the workouts and ran daily practices.

In the wake of a last year’s scandal, the installation of a brand new coaching staff and the decision by several runners to not run this fall, the Mammoths emerged with the best season in school history. Amherst won the Little Three Championships to break Williams’ 29-year winning streak at the event, won the NESCAC Championships for the first time in school history and earned a spot on the podium at nationals.

Next year, the Mammoths return five of their top-seven runners and only lose All-American Hussein from their scoring five.

With a strong core returning, Amherst’s runners will look to the indoor and outdoor track seasons to set new personal bests and further cement themselves as contenders for both NESCAC and national honors in the 2018 cross country season and beyond.