Halloween comes a day early this year for 20 Spartan student athletes. Tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 30, the Case Western Reserve University’s Men and Women Cross Country teams travel to the UAA Cross Country Championships in New York City to race against some scary competition. The No. 15 women and No. 30 men hoping to avoid the tricks of the UAA and return with treats as they face five men’s teams and four women’s ranked nationally by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The UAA is one of the most competitive conferences in the nation this season, fortunately for the Spartans, they come into Saturday’s race as one of the teams to be afraid of.
Each year, the UAA Championship provides an exciting race and a challenging test before the regional and national championship meets. Due to the large travel distances between UAA institutions, teams often do not get to race against each other during most of the season. The UAA Championship is usually the one chance that everyone has to race against his or her conference rivals.
“Conference is a special time of year. I love the competition between the fastest and smartest schools in the country.” remarked sophomore Corey Bowen.
CWRU had the privilege of hosting the meet last year at Squire Valleevue Farm. This year, NYU will be running the show. The race moves to the prestigious Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. Perhaps one of the most famous cross country courses in the Northeast, Van Cortlandt Park always provides a challenge to anyone that races its trails. Located along Broadway in the Bronx, Van Cortlandt offers over 1000 acres of green space for the people of New York. The famous course covers open fields, trials, steep hills, and even a path embedded with railroad ties.
“Van Cortlandt Park seems like it will be a interesting place to run. Hopefully we can run our best and out place as many schools as possible.” said Senior Justine Jeroski.
Each team runs 10 of their best runners, making up for 80 harriers in the men’s 8-kilometer race and women’s 6-kilometer event . This year, the Spartans bring experienced teams in to the race. The men’s squad has been lead by sophomore Chris Kelly and senior David Carter for most of the season. With help from seniors Robert Ontko and Bobby Voigt, and Junior Ethan Teare, the Spartans are prepared to bring their best as they match up against their conference rivals. Seniors Tim Smith and Austin Schmidt, junior Chris Wade, and sophomores Phil Yeung and Paul Curtiss will run in defense for the rest of the Men’s squad.
The women’s team also features an experienced squad. Lead by senior All-American Justine Jeroski and junior Natalia Cabrera, the Spartans have been creeping up in the national rankings each week. This would not be true without the help of seniors Andrea Fischione, Cindy Spahn, and Bettina Kaphingst. junior Blaire Volbers, sophomores Corey Bowen and Thea Emmons, and freshmen Brooke Simpson and Allison Magee complete the talented women’s team.
The Spartans will use this race to prepare for the regional championships in November. In some respects, the competition tomorrow will be just as tough as the Great Lakes Regional Championships. The top two teams from each of the eight regions across the country get automatic bids to the national meet. While men are ranked No. 4 and the women No. 2 in the Great Lakes Region, the ability to compete and pace with nationally ranked rivals will be key in the both teams’ prospects for a bid to the national championship.
“Annually, the UAA is a top NCAA Division III cross country conference in terms of talent. Finishing in the top 4 at the UAA meet this weekend is our goal,” said Senior David Carter. “This will set us up nicely for the Great Lakes Regional meet and NCAA Division III National meet in the following weeks.”
The men’s race goes off at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and the women’s race begins at 11:15 a.m.
Team Preview Capsules
After being in the top 10 in the national rankings for most of the season, the men’s team has hit hard times in the past few weeks. The No. 25-ranked squad has not raced much this season, riding on their reputation for the ranking. Lead by the experienced Senior Paul Norton, who finished 2nd at the UAA Championships last year, the Brandeis Men’s team could be expected to finish in the top 4 of the conference.
The women’s team has also raced conservatively this season. With only two full races under their belt, the women Judges come into the championships unranked nationally. Senior Grayce Selig has run very well the past few weeks, and could be pushing for a top five finish individually. From their previous performances, its apparent the women’s team overall won’t be threatening their UAA rivals for a place on the podium.
Runners to watch: Senior Paul Norton and senior Grayce Selig
Case Western Reserve University
The CWRU Men’s squad is ready for redemption. After a last place finish at the conference meet last year on home turf, the Spartans are ready to show that they can compete in the conference. The men’s team comes into tomorrows race ranked No 30 in the nation. The Spartans need to keep an eye out for Brandeis and Rochester’s runners, as they competing to finish in the top four. The Spartans thrive on tough hills, a skill CWRU will use to announce the rest of the conference that they won’t repeat last year’s debacle.
The women are coming off of a second place finish at last years meet. They expect to be right back were they left off. The Lady Spartans are one of the higher ranked teams in the conference, ranked at No 15 in the nation. Junior Natalia Cabrera and senior Justine Jeroski have posted some of the fastest times in the UAA this season. Expect CWRU to reach the podium. They face tough competition against last year’s champs Washington University and the highly ranked Chicago Maroons.
Runner to watch: Sophomore Chris Kelly and junior Natalia Cabrera
Carnegie Mellon University
The Carnegie Mellon men’s squad has run very consistently so far this season. Lead by senior Dan Addis, the Tartans have maintained their national ranking in the top 15 for most of the season. They seem to be the next best team behind NYU and WashU. Junior Matt Jacob and senior J.P. Allera, All-UAA runners from last season, have not been running at the front of CMU’s varsity squad. Their presence would put CMU in good position to get a third place finish.
The women’s squad has not been as dominant this season. CMU has finished in the middle of the pack at most of their meets this season. Sophomore Emily Wobb has lead the team all season and has run well when she pulls ahead of the pack. She seeded for a top five finish individually. Unfortunately, her efforts may not lead to a high finish for the team. CMU should expect to have some good individual performances, but in the team score they may finish in the bottom half.
Runner to watch: Senior Dan Addis and sophomore Emily Wobb
After losing several key seniors last year, the Emory men’s team has fallen on hard times. After going most of the season unranked, the Eagles have raced in the middle of the pack at most of its meets. The young team must step up next week to break into the national rankings, and race in a very competitive conference meet.
The Women’s team has been dipping in and out of the national rankings all season. After a solid 8th place performance at University Wisconsin-Oshkosh two weeks ago, the Eagles have shown that they may be able to keep up with the top teams in the UAA. They are on a hot streak coming into tomorrows race, and should be expected compete in the top half.
Runner to watch: Sophomore Stephen Ellwood and senior Natalie Fenn
New York University
The New York University men’s team has a rich history. They have won the past four UAA Cross Country championships. Ranked No. 7, NYU has performed very well all season, but they have clearly been resting and gearing up for the championship races. The home field advantage for NYU could be a deciding factor in their showdown against the No. 9 Bears of WashU.
On the women’s side, NYU is coming into the UAA championships on a downswing. They have been slowly dropping in the national rankings since the beginning of the season, settling in the most recent poll at No. 35. NYU saw some top competition in the past few meets, and they will need to use that experience wisely tomorrow. The Violets could expect to finish in the middle of the pack.
Runner to watch: Junior Andrew Zitek and junior Maeve Evans
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago men’s team has gone unranked nationally almost the entire season. After a convincing 9th place finish a few weeks ago at the competitive University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh invite, the Maroons have shown that they can compete within the UAA. Chicago finished very close to NYU and Washington at Oshkosh, and they will hope to do so again this weekend.
The Women’s team comes into the UAA championships on a high note. After taking 2nd at Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the Maroons sent a message to the conference that they are the ones to beat. Nationall ranked at No. 7, the Maroon are the only team ranked ahead of the No. 15 Spartans. Senior Liz Lawton has been one of the best runners in the country this season. She will look to lead Chicago the number one seed to a team victory.
Runner to watch: Sophomore Bill Whitmore and senior Liz Lawton
University of Rochester
The University of Rochester men’s team returns its top 7 runners from last season. This season is their chance to prove themselves in the conference. Led by senior Dan Lane and junior Jamie Vavra, and a trio of other seniors Dan Lane, Jon Pinto, and Craig Baumgartner, the Yellowjackets have raced decently against other competition in New York State this season. The Yellowjackets will push for a top finish in the UAA before they graduate a core of their top runners.
The women’s squad may not have as much luck as the men. Without any convincing performances this season, Rochester seems to be out of their league. Rochester hasn’t sniffed a national ranking all year and just recently broke top 10 in the Atlantic Region. Unfortunately, the women’s team may not have what it takes to compete against the rest off the UAA this year.
Runner to watch: Senior Dan Lane and junior Hillary Snyder
The WashU Men came into the season ranked No. 1 in the country. After performing well at the beginning of the season, the Bears have shown dominance over the other teams in the conference. Senior David Spandorfer and junior Michael Burnstein have consistently been top runners in the nation each week. At University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Spandorfer ran slower than expected, which lead to a team defeat at the hands of rival of NYU. WashU will be aiming to win the conference championships. If Spandorfer runs well, they should have the upper edge on NYU.
As defending champion, the women’s team should expect to be in the top of the pack. They have run strong all year. Earlier in the season, WashU was ranked as hight as No. 4 in the nation. The women’s squad also has raced well against conference competition, having raced Chicago and NYU at the Oshkosh invite. WashU, Chicago, and CWRU will all be in the mix to take home the gold medal.
Runner to watch: Senior David Spandorfer and junior Elizabeth Phillips
Men’s Championships Prediction
1. Washington University
2. New York University
3. Carnegie Mellon University
4. Brandeis University
5. Case Western Reserve University
6. University of Rochester
7. University of Chicago
8. Emory University
Women’s Championships Prediction
1. University of Chicago
2. Case Western Reserve University
3. Washington University
4. Emory University
5. New York University
6. Carnegie Mellon University
7. Brandeis University
8. University of Rochester