November 17, 2012
Williams Men 12th at NCAAs, Chris Lee '14 All-American
TERRE HAUTE, IN – With about a mile to go, anyone watching could tell that he was no pretender. He had run with the big guns in some earlier races, but not like this. On Saturday at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, Chris Lee '14 proved that he is not only an elite runner within the NESCAC, but also deserves to be mentioned among the top group of Division III runners nationwide. Lee crossed the line in 18th overall, good for All-American honors and the top NCAA finish by a male Williams cross country runner since Edgar Kosgey '10 (3rd in 2009). The top 35 finishers in the race qualify as All-Americans.
Having received an at-large bid to the meet, the Williams men came into Terre Haute knowing that they would need strong performances across the board if they wanted to outperform their #13 national ranking. The team got off the line well, which the Ephs knew was important to do given the large 32-team, 280-man field. Early on in the 8,000-meter race, all seven runners appeared to be in good position. Lee was up with the front pack, senior Scott Rodilitz and junior Max Laberge were farther back and together, just behind them was senior Wade Davis, and not far behind him were senior Brandon Abasolo, sophomore Aldis Inde, and freshman Bijan Mazaheri.
Lee would stay between 10th and 15th place for most of the race, ultimately being passed by a few runners on the home straightaway before crossing line 18th in 24:53.4. Unfortunately, not all Ephs would maintain their position as well as they had hoped. Rodilitz and Abasolo began to fade in the latter half of the race, and Davis was not able to move forward enough to catch Laberge. Meanwhile, Laberge would have one of his strongest performances of the season, finishing as Williams' second man in 89th (25:37.7). Davis was third on the team and 116th overall in 25:48.7. Inde and Mazaheri both moved up nicely to close out Williams' top-five in 134th and 136th, respectively (25:54.9 and 25:55.4). Rodilitz ended up 145th in 25:59.7, and Abasolo was 197th in 26:20.6.
Williams was 12th in team scoring, behind NESCAC rivals Bates (6th), Tufts (7th), and Middlebury (8th), and ahead of Bowdoin (16th). That all five teams placed in the top half of the field demonstrates the strength of a conference that appears only to be improving.
For Williams, the team finish was not awfully disappointing, but the captains in particular had hoped for more. Assistant coach Lance Harden emphasized that even though the seniors did not have their best race, "it was their strong performance and excellent leadership all season long that got the team to this level." Head coach Pete Farwell added, "The strong performance of the underclassmen today is a testament to the leadership of the captains and to the direction in which they have pointed the team."
This was the first appearance at the NCAAs for all underclassmen but Lee. With some experience under their belt, these underclassmen should form a solid base for the 2013 Williams cross country team. Their ability to step up when the seniors were not their best was key to the team's final placing. Still though, all Williams members who were present knew that today's star was Lee, of whom Farwell said, "He attacked throughout and really put himself in contention. To finish top-20 today is undoubtedly a big time race on the biggest stage."