The crescendo had finally reached its highest point. From the season opener at James Madison to the William & Mary Invite to the exciting Big East championships, the men and women’s cross country teams had been gradually building intensity in preparation for this final and most important meet – the NCAA Cross Country National Championships.

The stakes were highest here, as the top teams from around the country faced off against the Hoyas. And while not all hopes and expectations were realized, Georgetown continued to add to its list of impressive accomplishments this season, bringing home three all-Americans: Matt Debole, Andrew Bumbalough and top-10 finisher elissa Grelli.

The men’s squad came into the meet ranked 14th nationally, looking to improve upon last year’s 24th-place performance. Adhering to the year-long strategy of starting controlled and working up throughout the race, the Hoyas were in excellent position at the 5K mark, with still plenty of time to move up. Yet at the finish line, the results were sobering, as the Hoyas failed to turn in a strong fifth man and dropped from a potential top five or top 10 finish to 13th overall.

Leading the way for the men was the quartet of Andrew Bumbalough (16th), Matt Debole (44th), Mike Krisch (57th), and Justin Scheid (69th), who improved the team score nearly 90 points over the last 5K of the race.

“I felt like those four all ran great races,” Head Coach Pat Henner said. “Andrew ran a really tough race, and I was really happy with Matt. He has had some bad races the past few years, and then [he came] back and had a great race for us. [I felt] like Mike Krisch had his best race ever, and then Justin had a great team race for us.”

Yet the team could not field a strong five as both Levi Miller and Sandy Roberts were forced to drop out of the race. That left freshman Ayalew Taye (212th), who, having suffered two falls earlier in the course, needed to struggle through the last 2K to finish as the team’s fifth man and make the team eligible for scoring.

“We were ranked 14th coming in, and we finished 13th, so we were pleased in that regard,” Henner said, “but we also see that we missed out on a great opportunity to finish in the top five or six. That was the disappointing thing.”

Among the great performances of the day were those of Bumbalough and Debole, who finished 22nd and 55th respectively in the individual results, qualifying for all-American status. Bumbalough turned in a great second half of the race, moving from 50th at the 5K mark to 30th at the 8K, and then proceeding to pick off seven runners over the final 2K of the course.

“Andrew’s somebody that in the heat of competition can keep his composure and build intensity and get pretty much everything out of himself that’s there. I definitely think that, given relatively good health over the next few years, he’s definitely going to be one of the top runners in the country,” Henner said.

On the women’s side, senior Melissa Grelli was the highlight for the Blue and Gray as she placed 10th with a time of 20:20 to have the second highest nationals finish in school history. “Melissa’s just a great competitor, and she is very, very talented and tough. She really ran great,” said women’s coach Chris Miltenberg.

For Grelli, it was one of the first times she was challenged all season, and she responded, pushing herself to the limit in order to finish amid the nation’s best.

“I felt the most exhausted crossing the line that I’ve felt all season. I knew that I put everything out there that I had to give that day, and that was rewarding,” she said.

For the team race, the Hoyas had a disappointing 28th place finish on a day when the squad simply was not at its best. As iltenberg said, “We went out there and the women got a little out of their comfort zone and probably weren’t strong enough to handle that yet, so when things started to go poorly, they went really badly.”

Following Grelli were Liz Maloy (58th), Joanna Rodgers (135th), aggie Infeld (152nd) and Lise Ogrodnick (166th). Miltenberg explained that amidst a host of early season injuries, the team had to take a more conservative approach to their training and that consequently the lack of volume and mileage probably caught up to them during this final race of the season.

Despite the disappointing team finish for the men, the Hoyas turned in a solid performance on the year overall, taking first in three regular season meets, runner up at the Big East tournament and a first at Regionals. The team was able to gain a great deal of confidence by competing on the national level as well, which bodes well for the future, seeing that six of their seven runners from nationals are returning next year.

“The good thing I think coming out of it is that we have now a core nucleus of guys coming back who have had good experiences and have ran well at NCAAs and that our guys really see and believe that our program is one of the top teams in the country, and now its just a matter of figuring out how to do it on that day,” Henner said.

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