This past Saturday the men’s cross country team toed the starting line at the Big East Championship meet poised for victory. They fell short of their goal, finishing third behind nationally ranked Villanova and Providence, respectively.

“Obviously, coming in our expectation was to win the race. So finishing third was disappointing,” Assistant Coach Patrick Henner said. “But I was encouraged by how we ran as a team, and I clearly view this as our best race of the season.”

The relatively flat 8k course in Franklin Park, Mass., led to a blistering pace. Providence harrier Adam Sutton broke from the field in the first half mile of the race. The ensuing pack of 10 runners, which included Hoyas seniors Kalpanatit Broderick and Mike Smith, passed the two-mile mark in nine minutes and thirty seconds.

“We basically settled in that group,” Smith said. “No one wanted to lead.”

That changed at the four-mile marker when Villanova junior Jonathan Fasulo broke away from the pack. “I was a little worried heading into the latter part of the race, because I knew that the Villanova runners [including All-Americans Ryan Hayden and Adrian Blincoe] had really good speed,” Smith said. “And at this point in the season I feel that we are not as well suited for that racing style as we will be later in the month.” The trio from Villanova finished second, third and fourth. Broderick and Smith followed in fifth and seventh, respectively.

Broderick, who Henner described, “as having a career performance,” was pleased with his effort. “I knew I was having a good race and that I needed to go with a mile left,” Broderick said. “I think Mike [Smith] and I were a bit surprised by Fasulo’s move, but it felt great to perform at that high of a level.”

Broderick was not the only Hoya that Henner described with superlatives. “I think that Dylan Welsh had the best race of his career, cross country or track,” Henner said. Welsh finished 13th in a time of 24:14, leading the second group of Hoya runners, which included sophomore Rod Koborsi and freshman Fleet Hower. Henner was also encouraged by the cohesiveness of the Hoyas’ top five. “It was nice to see the time margin between our runners narrow from Pre-Nationals,” Henner said. The time difference between the Hoyas’ lead finisher, Broderick, and their final scorer, Hower, was an impressive 27 seconds. This margin will be critical to the Hoyas’ success in the remaining two meets of the season. The size and quality of the fields gathered at the NCAA Provisional and Championship meets make a tight pack imperative for team success.

The Hoyas are confident heading into the final days of their season. The race distance in their remaining two meets will jump from 8k to 10k. Despite the increased distance, the men’s team welcomes the change. “I feel that our training is more strength based, and subsequently more conducive to racing the longer distance,” Smith said.

The Hoyas aim for a top-two finish and an automatic bid to the National meet when they race again in two weeks. And while it is apparent that the men’s team is not overlooking the importance of the Provisional meet, their focus is clear. “We all know that only one day really matters this season,” Smith said. “And that’s Nov. 25. The National Championship meet in Terre Haute, Ind.”

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