Four was the reoccurring and all-important number for UR men’s cross country team last Saturday. The men placed fourth out of 32 complete teams, sophomore Mark Stevens placed fourth overall in the field of 231 runners and the top four Yellowjacket finishers made the All-Atlantic Region team.

“I was very proud of the team,” head coach John Izzo said. “We ran one of our best races of the year.”

The race conditions couldn’t get much more perfect. The day was beautiful, sunny in the mid-60s, making the course conditions near optimal, though there were a few muddy patches.

The competition was stiff, and the Yellowjackets managed to stick with it throughout the entire race. Stevens went out early and took the lead, which he held until the last loop of the course, when any spectator watching the runners pass by was unable to tell which team would be the champion – the top three teams were separated by just four points.

The College of New Jersey left UR with the win, totaling 64 points, but SUNY Geneseo was right behind them with just 65 points. New York University placed third, with only 68 points.

Although the Yellowjackets were a distant fourth with 145 points, they were a constant pressure on the leaders throughout the race – they didn’t fall behind until the very end. On a bright note, SUNY Plattsburg trailed UR by 51 points at fourth place.

“It was a very good meet in terms of tough competition,” Izzo said. “The top 10 teams were very good competition.”

Stevens ran the eight-kilometer race in 25:23.1, just seven seconds behind the individual regional champion. Senior Kevin McGettrick was 24th in 26:27.9, sophomore Dan Mueller was 28th in 26:31.6 and junior Joe Lust was 32nd in 36:39.9. Freshman Thomas Brekke rounded off the team, finishing 57th in 27:06.3. Stevens, McGettrick, Mueller and Lust all made the All-Atlantic Region team.

The displacers were freshman Daniel Chebot, who finished 73rd in 27:18.3, and senior Chris Nolan, who finished 112th in 27:57.0.

The season is now over for all except for Stevens. He will race at the NCAA Division III Championships in Ohio on Saturday.

“I’m ecstatic about Mark making Nationals,” Izzo said.

“Advancing to nationals is a big weight off my shoulders,” Stevens said. “There was a lot of stress and excitement for me before Regionals. I feel like I’m ready to peak the day of Nationals.”

Stevens is hoping to finish in the top 35, which would make him an All-American.

“Everybody in this meet is good, but, if he’s running the way he can run, there aren’t too many people in the country who can run away from him,” Izzo said.

The team’s trip to the pre-nationals race should be some help to Stevens because he’s seen and ran the course before. However, he’ll have something missing this Saturday that he says will make racing a little harder.

“We all went out hard to try to qualify the team for Nationals and ended up fourth in the region,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss racing with the team this upcoming weekend.”

Philbrick can be reached at ephilbrick@campustimes.org.



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