With a rich, storied tradition of excellence, the William and Mary men’s and women’s track teams entered Oct. 27th’s Colonial Athletic Association Championships with designs of winning yet another pair of CAA crowns.
The Tribe did just that, and more, as both the men and women claimed CAA titles, thanks in large part to a pair of record-breaking performances.
The Tribe men claimed their 13th consecutive conference title, which was held in Williamsburg for the first time since 2001. The women’s team, meanwhile, broke a streak of its own, winning its first CAA title in three years.
On the men’s side, senior Alex McGrath skillfully paced the field, finishing in 24 minutes, 4 seconds to win the race and garner All-CAA honors. Fittingly, McGrath made some history of his own, as his time broke the course record of 24:12 set by Brian Hyde ’96, which stood for 19 years. McGrath was closely followed by sophomore Rad Gunzenhauser and junior Josh Hardin, who finished third and fourth, respectively.
With a final team score of 25, the College outpaced second-place George Mason’s score of 31 and third-place Northeastern’s score of 78.
The women’s team displayed a similarly dominant performance. Not to be outdone by McGrath, junior Elania Balouris took the women’s individual title in similar fashion, breaking the course record in thrilling fashion. The junior crossed the finish line in 20:43.1, breaking the previous record of 20:57.8, which was set by JMU’s Mollie DeFrancesco in 2001. Freshman Emily Stites also looked impressive in her first CAA championship appearance, overcoming a minor ankle sprain to finish in third place.
While Balouris and Stites took first and third, the Dukes posed a stiff challenge. JMU’s Katie Harman finished in second with a time of 20:57.6, and teammate Katie Gorman finished in fourth in 21:07.2. With each team claiming two of the top four spots, the title would be decided by which team displayed a greater amount of depth.
After George Mason’s Bethany Schtleben and JMU’s Stacey Nobles took fifth and sixth, respectively, the College’s core secured the title victory with an impressive display. Sophomore Jess Cygan led a pack of four Tribe runners who claimed spots seven through 10. After Cygan finished in 21:17.9, junior Lanie Smith finished in eighth, followed by junior Clarissa Schick in ninth and junior Michelle Britto in tenth. Sophomore Dylan Hassett rounded out the Tribe All-CAA team with a twelfth place finish.
The two squads added to an impressive and ever-growing list of program accomplishments. The men’s streak of 13 straight CAA titles is the third-longest such streak in the country, and the College now has 35 conference titles overall, the third-highest total in the NCAA. The women claimed their 18th CAA title, which ranks fifth in NCAA history.
The College will look to continue its pair of impressive seasons during its next meet, the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships, which begin Friday in Charlotte, N.C.