The UR cross country team faced a tough challenge this past weekend at the University Athletic Association Championships, hosted by the University of Chicago. The ‘Jackets went into their third tough race in a row against arguably the most powerful conference in Division III, with five schools ranked in the top 35 nationally on the women’s side and four on the men’s.
The men’s team took sixth place out of eight teams with a score of 146 points. They were lead by senior Jamie Vavra, who had an impressive finish by taking fourth with a time of 25:47 in the 8K.
Behind Vavra, fellow seniors Jason Zayac and Andrew Fleisher stepped up their games to finish 33rd and 34th overall in identical times of 26:58. It was the first time either runner has placed in the top three for UR this season. Take Five Scholar Frank Ramirez (41st, 27:11), sophomore Adam Pacheck (42nd, 27:12), junior Dan Hamilton (48th, 27:26) and freshman Mark Rollfs (55th, 27:46) rounded out the top seven.
The notable feature of the UAA Championship — aside from its talent — is its size. Each school is only allowed to field 10 runners (for a total of 80 in the race), leaving a very high concentration of talented runners. As a consequence, every runner must perform at his very best for his team to have a successful finish.
The ‘Jackets were the only team in the meet to race the weekend before, and, with Ramirez — who normally runs on Vavra’s heels — recovering from a stomach virus, they found themselves just a step behind the competition.
The women’s team also ran a very tough race in Chicago. Their eighth-place finish as a team was not indicative of the effort and improvement that they displayed.
Sophomore Danielle Bessette led the ‘Jackets to finish just one point out of seventh and 10 points out of sixth. She finished the 6K race in 23:50, good for 28th-place overall.
Rounding out the top seven were senior Hillary Snyder (35th, 24:04), juniors Zarah Quinn (45th, 24:30) and Meg Ogle (48th, 24:34), senior Meg Battin (55th, 24:57) and freshmen Caitlyn Garbarino (57th, 25:06) and Victoria Stepanova (59th, 25:07).
The ladies returned home with much to be proud of. Strong performances from Ogle and Garbarino served to bring the remaining scorers closer to the top three, which is a great improvement from previous races. The ability to race with these top programs with less rest time, coupled with their improvement in tightening up their scoring pack shows that this team is poised for great things at the regional meet in two weeks.
While the cross country team may not have come away from the UAA championships with the finishes they were looking for, they ended the tough series of meets with much to look forward to.
The ‘Jackets have an off weekend to train and rest their legs for the Atlantic Regional Championships in two weeks at St. Lawrence University, and they remain confident that they can pull out a big race with the NCAA Championship bid on the line.
Men’s head coach John Izzo is a firm believer in the squads’ abilities to get their momentum back in time for the most important race of the season thus far.
According to Izzo, “They will rise like a phoenix from the ashes at Regionals.”
Lane is a Take Five Scholar.