Junior Yellowjacket runner Patrick Hughes made UR proud on Saturday, Nov.18, traveling to the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships and finishing in the top half of the field.

Hughes finished 120th of 279 runners who made the trek to Ohio, completing the muddy eight-kilometer course in 28:42.

“The weather the week before really affected everyone’s race,” Hughes said. “The mass amounts of rain had turned the courseinto a slushy bog. There were sections of the race that had standing water, one of which was about 50 meters long and two feet deep.”

Head coach John Izzo was extremely impressed with Hughes’s run.

“Pat ran a great race under very difficult conditions,” he said. “I was very proud of how he handled the situation and made the best of his opportunity.”

However, Hughes thought that the course conditions may have served as an advantage for him.

“I think a lot of people were nervous about the conditions, whereas I was excited just to be there, regardless of the mud. So in that respect I had a mental edge over some of the other competitors,” he said. “The fact that I have a relatively short stride length helped me in the mud as well, and due to this, I beat some guys who had beat me the weekend before at Regionals.”

Hughes qualified for the race by finishing 28th in the Atlantic Regional Championships on Nov. 11. He was originally an alternate for Nationals, but junior teammate Mark Stevens was forced to withdraw from the race due to injury, vacating a spot for Hughes.

“I was upset that Mark couldn’t compete for us, since he was racing so well all season, but it was a relief that the spot could go to his teammate,” Hughes said. “The fact that I was the alternate and that [junior] Danny Mueller was only two spots behind me shows that we have some depth, and we will have a good shot at qualifying as a team for Nationals next year.”

The atmosphere of the course was something Hughes said he had never experienced before, and it added to the excitement of the day.

“All of the spectators at the race were wild. There were mascots all over and people in face paint with banners,” he said. “It was unlike any other race. There were so many spectators that there wasn’t a single part of the course that didn’t have someone screaming or ringing a cowbell. The energy was unlike any race I’ve ever been in.”

This marks the end of UR’s cross country season, but Izzo is already looking forward to an even better finish to next season.

“There were a number of teammates who made the trip to support Pat,” he said. “I think they now realize that our team is better than a number of the teams that qualified for the meet out of other regions, and I know they will carry that knowledge into next season.”

Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.

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