Men’s cross country: College races to fifth place at nationals

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November 30, 2009

10:06 PM

William and Mary made an impressive showing at the NCAA Championships last week, finishing fifth overall with a score of 226 points. The Tribe received a boost from strong individual performances from junior Jon Grey and seniors Patterson Wilhelm and Colin Leak.

“We had outstanding races out of our first four personnel,” Head Coach Alex Gibby said. “I was certainly very pleased.”

A fifth-place finish is the second-best in the program’s history, behind a fourth-place finish in 1973. It was also the sixth time the Tribe has placed in the top 10. Last year, the Tribe placed 16th at the event, but the group had bigger and better goals coming into this season.

“The expectations were unstated, but understood,” Gibby said. “Last year we had a young team. This year, we simply wanted to run well at the national meet.”

Oklahoma State took the top prize this year, while Oregon finished in a close second.

The College is one of only five schools to attend every NCAA Championship since 1997. It earned an automatic invitation this year by defending its Southeast Region title on Nov. 14th in Louisville, Ky. It was the 10th time the Tribe has accomplished this since the region’s inception in 1965.

Gibby attributes the Tribe’s achievements this year to its chemistry. “[Our key is] the group dynamic that has existed among the top seven to eight guys,” he said. “That’s a big reason for our success.”

Grey, who received two CAA Runner of the Week awards this season, led the Tribe with a time of 29:51.4, which was good for 17th place overall. Wilhelm and Leak finished in the 34th and 40th places, respectively. All three earned All-American honors, the first time in Tribe history that more than one runner had received the honor in one season.

“None of these guys were All-Americans in high school,” Gibby said. “It’s a product of the amount of time we spend developing personnel. It speaks even louder about the quality of the personnel.”

The finish came just a day after Gibby was named the Southeast Region coach of the year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the second straight season, and the third time in his career.

“Not a big deal,” Gibby said. “It’s a product of these guys’ [the runners’] development, and their ability to perform.”

Now the Tribe will shift its focus to the indoor track season, where they hope to continue to improve and prepare themselves for next year.

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