The Case Western cross country teams went up against the tough University Athletics Association field last weekend, competing in the conference championships in Pittsburgh. Both teams ran strong races, but fell short of expectations among this challenging group of nationally-ranked colleges and universities on a difficult and unfamiliar course.
The men’s team went into the weekend ranked 35th nationally on the U.S. Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Poll, fifth on this list among fellow UAA schools. The team was led by senior David Dixon who finished in 26th place with a time of 26:19.6, barely more than a minute behind the top runner in the field. The next Spartans to cross the finish line were Timothy Travitz and Wyatt Hoch with the 31st and 32nd place times, respectively. Ben Davis was the fourth finisher in 38th place and Galen Caldwell rounded out the top five scores in 46th with a time of 27:03.4.
The men did well to stick together in this tough race, but weren’t able to crack the top scoring and ended the race in seventh place out of eight teams, below their anticipated fifth-place finish. The teams placing just ahead of CWRU had most runners finishing within seconds of the Spartan squad, making this race’s result an especially bitter one for the team. As a result of this race, the men fell out of the national poll this week.
The women suffered a similar fate, finishing just twenty points out of the fourth-place spot. The team was ranked fourth in the national coaches poll heading into the competition, leading competitors Rochester and Brandeis in the rankings. The team beat Rochester at the Oberlin competition earlier in the season and looked to edge them out again, but fell just short with the fastest Rochester runner claiming the top spot in the race.
The Spartans were led by Kelsey Aamoth, who placed fifth overall with a time of 22:15.7. Aamoth was followed by Kristen Ruckstuhl in 20th place, Lydia Greene in 22nd place, Erica Bauerbach in 26th place and Dana Jeter in 37th place with a time of 23:38.5. Greene, a great high-pressure performer for the team, logged her fastest time of the season as the third runner for the team. The women’s team placed fifth overall, falling in the national rankings to 25th, behind Brandeis.
Both teams will look to exceed expectations as they enter into NCAA regional competition on Nov. 16th. The men are currently ranked fifth in the Great Lakes region and the women are placed fourth.
Head coach Kathy Lanese is looking to finish on top and she has superstition on her side: The last time the team won the NCAA Regional championship was in 2006, when the women’s team took home the title. After the competition, the meet organizers gave Lanese the official event banner to commemorate the occasion. The memento has been hanging in her office for the past seven years until two weeks ago, when it mysteriously fell down from its place on the wall.
Lanese believes it’s a clear sign. “We’ll just have to go get a new one.”
The team will need to beat reigning champion Hope College to bring the program full circle heading into 2014.