Amidst best in region, m. XC finishes in fifth place

BOSTON – The men’s cross country team competed against the strongest squads in the Northeast this Saturday at the NCAA Regional Champi-onships, held at Franklin Park in Boston. The Bears scored 181 points, tying with Columbia for fifth place out of 33 teams.

The harriers benefited from unusually mild November weather, racing under clear skies and in temperatures hovering in the low 50s. Perennial powerhouse Iona College claimed the top spot, posting 33 points for a convincing win over second-place Dartmouth, which tallied 50. Also finishing in front of Brown was crosstown rival Providence College with 67.

Cornell also defeated the Bears over the 10-kilometer course, though Brown handily beat the Big Red two weeks ago at the Heptagonal Championships.

“It was a day of mixed results for us,” said Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Craig Lake. “Ultimately, we switched with Cornell, but if things had gone differently, we would have pulled out fourth, as we’d expected.”

Captain Owen Washburn ’06 entered the day with his sights set on extending his season through the prestigious NCAA National Championships. Individual bids are given to the top four finishers not on a team advancing to the big dance. At Heps, Washburn had led the team with his second-place overall finish.

Though he raced aggressively, staying even with the top men for the majority of the race, a devastating cramp prevented Washburn from staying with the leaders. He finished the race 59th out of the 232-man field, sixth on the team.

“It was hard to watch as a coach, knowing he is an All American-caliber runner,” Lake said. “It was the only off day he has had all season, including practices and workouts. It was humbling to see, knowing he deserved to be advancing to Nationals.”

Several Bears stepped up to have stellar performances. Most notably, Chris Burke ’07 led the team, earning All-Region honors in the process. He finished 17th overall, and his time of 30:44 marked an improvement of 1:14, to set a personal best on the course. Burke has served as a consistent top runner for the harriers all season, steadily improving with each meet.

“Burke was solid as always,” Lake said. “He was right in the mix, competing right with some very talented men.”

Re-establishing himself as a core part of the Bears’ top squad, Jordan Kinley ’06 finished his cross country career with his best race of the season. Kinley crossed the line second for Brown and 33rd overall with a personal best time of 31:12.

“It was a big confidence booster to finally race to my potential, especially going into the track season,” Kinley said.

Closely following Kinley was Ari Zamir ’08. In his first 10k race, Zamir easily paced alongside the rest of the varsity Bears, crossing the line one spot behind his teammate in 31:14.

“It was a big day for Ari and Jordan,” Lake said. “It was great to see Jordan end his senior year with such a great race, and it is a great indication for future success in cross country for Ari.”

Though Burke’s forte is the longer distances, Kinley and Zamir are core members of the track team’s middle-distance squad, making their success over the long 10-kilometer distance especially impressive.

“It was the toughest race, both physically and mentally, that I have ever done,” Zamir said. “If I hadn’t been with Jordan or a teammate the whole time, I would not have done as well. Our goal the entire time was to stay together.”

The Bears also nearly suffered another casualty on the day when Herald photographer Nick Neely ’07 was pushed to the ground halfway into the race at about the 5,000-meter mark.

“He could have been up there with our other men,” Lake said. “But he did a great job of getting himself together and pushing on.”

Neely captured the fourth scoring position for Brown, racing to a 46th-place finish and clocking 31:29.

Neil Hamel ’07 led the Bears’ second pack through the first portion of the race, and Lake credits Hamel’s patient pacing for Kinley and Zamir’s breakthroughs. Hamel crossed the line 52nd overall at 31:38 to close out the scoring for Brown.

Staying relaxed through the first 400 meters, the Bears began steadily hunting down opponents as a group, before picking up the pack at the 3,000-meter mark.

“Given how the season went, I was really proud of how the men did, and how they raced tough to the end,” Washburn said.

Rounding out the top seven for the Bears was Eamon Quick ’07 in 70th with a time of 31:57.

“For our squad, finishing fifth in the region without our top man is solid,” Lake said.

Though Regionals marked the end of cross country for most of the harriers, some will have one last chance to go the distance this fall. Due to a late addition to the Bears’ schedule, the team will compete one final time with a limited squad at the IC4A Championships Saturday in New York City.