In what has become as much an annual William and Mary tradition as Charter Day or the Yule Log, the Tribe men and women’s cross-country programs humbled their conference foes at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships.
The Tribe dominated from the starting gun of the men’s race Friday at the Towson, Md. course. Paced by junior Rad Gunzenhauser, the men placed all seven of its runners in the first 11 slots to finish 19 points under second-place Northeastern. The No. 18 Tribe women responded with an even more commanding team performance, capturing the first-ever perfect score in conference history by placing all of its scoring runners in the first five slots.
Saturday’s first-place finish extended the men’s streak to 14 years of CAA preeminence and improved the program’s total CAA titles to 21 — second most for any program in conference history behind only College women’s tennis, which holds 22. With only three exceptions, the men’s team has won the CAA title every year since 1990. The women’s side isn’t far behind, having amassed 19 CAA titles, including eight of the last 10 championships.
Last year’s bronze medalist, Gunzenhauser improved to second with an 8,000-meter time of 24 minutes and 46 seconds, being narrowly edged out over the final 400 meters of the race by Northeastern’s Wes Gallagher, who finished four seconds ahead.
“The goal was to win, and he dictated a lot of the pace early,” Director of Cross Country Stephen Walsh said. “Gallagher sat on for most of the race. With about 400 meters left, Gallagher made a move, and Rad [Gunzenhauser] just didn’t have enough turnover at that point. We were hoping to see Rad come away with a win. He’s been running strong all year.”
Freshman Trevor Sleight came in behind Gunzenhauser for third, while sophomores Ryan Gousse and David Barney collected the fifth and sixth slots for the Tribe. Rounding out the scoring runners, junior Nathaniel Hermsmeier finished ninth with a 25:49 run.
Senior Elaina Balouris capped off her stellar conference career by out-running sophomore teammate Emily Stites, capturing her second-straight individual title with a 21:17 6,000-meter run. Winner of the Junior National Championships her freshman year, Stites sprinted to the tape on Balouris’ heels, coming up short by a 29th of a second.
“They challenge each other; that’s why they’ve been so successful,” Walsh said. “When you have two runners that are at that level, it’s always great to have because they work with each other really well. Sometimes when you have two runners who are that good, they will want to be better than the other. But they really want each other to do well. That’s why they’ve been so successful.”
The Tribe’s second group wasn’t far behind. Senior Michelle Britto, sophomore Meghan McGovern and junior Dylan Hassett ensured the College secured the title before the first competing runner crossed the finish line, finishing third, fourth and fifth. Two years after losing to in-state rival James Madison and one year after narrowly beating the Dukes, the Tribe’s perfect 15 points were 66 points lower than JMU’s score of 81.
“We had goals at the beginning of the season,” Walsh said. “One of the goals was to win the conference and to go into regionals with confidence, and I think we’re really strong about that right now.”
Next up is the National Collegiate Athletic Association Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships in Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 15.