Men take third, women finish sixth, at championships

Junior Jacob Phillips finished tenth at the snowy conference championships. (Hannah Rose for The Phoenix)

Beat Hopkins. Finish third in the conference.

These words have echoed around the Swarthmore men’s cross country team like a mantra. Throughout the year, the team has taken every opportunity to state its goals for this season: To defeat rival Johns Hopkins, and to come in third in the Centennial Conference Championship Meet.
On Saturday, Swarthmore delivered on them.

Fighting through an early snow storm that hit the Northeast with a rare October snow, the Garnet men placed third in the conference championships, an 8-kilometer race hosted by Dickinson at Big Spring High School in Newville, Pa.
With a total of 110 points, Swarthmore finished behind overall winners Haverford (19 points) and the host Dickinson (46 points).

The team’s total was good enough to narrowly defeat Hopkins (114 points) for their best finish since 2004 (they have finished third five other times in the program’s history). The Garnet had placed fourth in last year’s championships.

Jacob Phillips ’13, who has led the way for the Garnet all season, once again finished first on the team and tenth overall in the race. His time of 27:34.9 was Swarthmore’s best individual performance since Lang Reynolds ’05 won the race in 2003. The next-best Swarthmore finisher was Aidan Dumont-McCaffrey ’13, who came in 20th with a time of 28:13.3. Robert Fain ’14 (28:44.8) and John McMinn ’13 (28:55.7), who had both missed time with injuries, came in 31st and 35th respectively.

“We were very happy with coming in 3rd and beating Hopkins, another nationally ranked team,” McMinn said in an email. “Due to injury and other reasons this was the first race in a while that we had all of our top runners running in the same race, and the fact that we’re a mere four points better than Hopkins showed just how important each runner was.”

Additional Swarthmore finishes were Jonas Oppenheimer ’15 (43rd, 29:21.7), Stuart Russell ’14 (38th, 29:40.1), Chris Wickham ’12 (41st, 30.00.7), Richard Scott ’14 (42nd, 30:05.9), Jorin Schug ’15 (60th, 30:23.5), Alec Toro ’15 (79th, 31:28.9), Henry Ainley ’12 (83rd,31.38.0) and Erick White ’15 (87th, 32:21.7).

The overall winner of the race was Jordan Schilit, a junior from first-place Haverford, with a time of 26:52.8. Schilit beat Dickinson’s Dylan Straughan (26:58.9) by just over six seconds, to lead his team to the conference title.

The Swarthmore women’s cross country team finished sixth out of ten teams in their conference championships, a 6-kilometer race also at Big Spring High School.

The team finished with 166 points, finishing 21 points behind fifth-place Gettysburg. Melissa Frick ’12 led the Garnet by placing 22nd with a time of 25:38.9.

“I’m happy with how I raced,” Frick said. “I’m not a cold-weather person by any means, so for me it was a success. I’m really hoping I can improve my conference standing in regionals.”

Head coach Peter Carroll was pleased with his team’s ability to overcome playing shorthanded. The Garnet women’s team was without seniors Jen Johnson ’12 and Hannah Rose ’12, as well as junior Rebecca Hammond ’13.

“We were without three of our top runners in this race,” Carroll said. “I’m proud of the way the women rallied, and the people who had to step up did that.”

Following Frick was fellow senior Stephanie Beebe ’12 in 35th place (26:07.1). Other high finishers were Katie Gonzalez ’12 (40th/26:28.1), Margret Lenfest ’12 (51st/26:47.6) and sophomore Emma Saarel ’14 (52nd/26:49.7).

“It was a challenging meet, the conditions of the race being as tough as they were,” Gonzalez said in an email. “But we came in feeling very strong and had a lot of really great performances.”

For the Garnet, the snow added an unexpected dimension to the challenges they would face. Frick, the women’s top finisher, described the experience of racing in a snowfall.

“It’s like driving in the dark with one headlight, not knowing where you’re going and feeling your tires slip out from under you,” Frick said.

“It’s very, very unfamiliar terrain, and your body’s not acclimated to it. I remember coming off the starting line and not being able to look forward because of the snow falling in your face. It really came down to being a race about feeling where you were.”

Johns Hopkins finished first with 43 points, followed by Haverford (52 points) and Dickinson (69 points). Dickinson’s Taylor Ludman won the overall race with a time of 23:43.0.

“Every member of our team put 110% effort out there,” Lenfest said, “and as our coach said the night before, racing is about focus and we are lucky to have this opportunity to show it. We now also have a truly epic story to tell about the time we ran in a blizzard!”

The two cross country squads now turn their attention to next weekend, when they participate in the NCAA Regionals at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. The meet is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m.

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