Two weeks after capturing its 11th straight CAA Championship with a 1-2-3 podium sweep, the No. 19 William and Mary men once again proved their consistency Saturday by claiming the NCAA Southeast Regional Crown for the third year in a row.
The Tribe women also placed well in the Southeast Regional, as their 290 overall points put them at ninth in the overall standings. Freshman Elaina Balouris earned All-Region honors by pacing the College with a 23rd-place finish with a time of 21 minutes, 6.4 seconds.
For the men, the College did not have any individuals place within the top 10, but instead utilized a strategy that emphasized consistency to claim the championship.
Five College runners finished within the top 25, allowing the squad to capture 85 points and beat out second-place Duke by 31 points. Graduate student Chas Gillespie paced the Tribe by placing 12th overall in 30:37.1, but the Tribe’s first-place finish was cemented by the consistency of its other runners.
“The men ran very well,” head cross country coach Stephen Walsh said. “We went into the race ranked fifth, but we knew we weren’t fifth. We knew we had a lot of guys who were injured, so we were delayed in the process, and that we were really coming into stride right now. A lot of the teams we were racing were ready to go in September, and we didn’t get a whole race with everybody together until mid-October, so we were almost a month behind them. Now we are starting to peak, and they are coming down.”
Junior Zach Gates, sophomore Josh Hardin and senior Lewis Woodard finished four seconds apart in 16th, 17th and 18th positions, respectively. Junior Tom Burke rounded out the Tribe quartet by finishing in 31:6.4, good for 22nd place.
Although Walsh was impressed with the showing of his top four runners, he said he was equally encouraged by the growth of his younger athletes, Hardin in particular.
“Our number five Josh Hardin stepped up in a big way,” Walsh said. “He had a career day for himself, and when you are the fifth man, it helps if you can bring everyone else along, and he made it easier on everybody.”
On the women’s side, the Tribe utilized strong performances by its underclassmen core to garner a ninth-place finish. In addition to Balouris, freshman Kathleen Lautzenheiser’s time of 21:21.2 seconds allowed her to finish 32nd, while senior Betsy Graney and freshman Megan Fitzpatrick rounded out the Tribe’s top four with 49th and 82nd-place finishes, respectively.
“Elana made all region; she had a very good day,” Walsh said. “It’s great for freshmen to go and get some experience, but it’s tough because going into the race, they don’t have much experience … The future looks very good for the women, and I think they have a good attitude about it. They know what they are doing, they are working hard … so I am hoping that the next race will be their best race of the year.”
From here, the College will compete in several different events within the next week. Saturday, the Tribe women will travel to Bronx, N.Y. to compete in the ECAC Championships while the men, who did not qualify for the NCAA Championships, will compete in the IC4A Championships, which will take place in the Bronx.
Two days later, Walsh will travel with his top five men to Terre Haute, Ind. to compete in the NCAA Championships, in which the College finished 5th last year. The College has never won the NCAA Championships.
While the Tribe has certainly already surprised a fair share of critics this season, Walsh said he is cautiously optimistic about the squad’s prospects of bringing a national title back to Williamsburg.
“It’s a very good team, it’s a team that is underrated, and it’s a team that I think is going to surprise a lot of people,” Walsh said. “It’s a team that can do well, but to win a national title is tough.”