Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams stood out at the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Cross Country Championships at Hamilton College this weekend. The men shined, taking the first-place title. Six runners earned All-New York State honors for the men. ‘Jackets head coach John Izzo was named the Coach of the Year. The women also raced well, coming in fourth out of 10. Two women earned First Team All-New York State honors and one earned Third Team All-New York honors.

The men ran better than expected. St. Lawrence University is nationally ranked, and Ithaca College is also perennially tough. The muddy and wet course and the cold weather were anything but ideal for the race.

This worked to the advantage of UR, however, as it equalized the playing field and slowed down some top-ranked runners on other competitive teams.

Sophomore Brian Lang was the top finisher for UR, coming in just ahead of his teammate, freshman Jamie Vavra, for a sixth-place finish in a time of 27:31:2 in the 8-kilometer course.

Vavra was close behind in seventh overall with a time of 27:31:6. Both Lang and Vavra made the All-State First Team.

Going into the final stretch of the race, Lang saw that Vavra was running closely with two St. Lawrence runners. With the race championship in the team’s grasp, Lang put in a final kick that propelled him and Vavra ahead of the two Saints’ runners, as well as a runner from Ithaca College, pushing UR toward victory.

Vavra was also named Rookie of the Year, placing the highest out of all first-year runners. The freshman felt great about the team effort overall, having nothing but positive comments about his teammates.

‘We ran better than projected, but I am not surprised,” Vavra said. ‘We trained very well for this meet, and I felt that our guys had great races that day.”

The top-five UR runners were separated by only 15 seconds. Senior Dan Chebot reaped Second Team All-State honors by placing 14th with a time of 27:44:4.

‘For the first time all season we banded together and really ran like a team, pushing and encouraging each other during the race,” Chebot said.

Sophomore Craig Baumgartner finished 11th overall and received Second Team All-State honors.

Baumgartner, who is usually the team’s eighth runner, significantly stepped up to run in the Yellowjackets’ third spot, displacing some key runners from St. Lawrence.

Another key runner in Saturday’s race was senior Tom Brekke. Though he finished the day eighth for the team and 37th overall, he provided key motivation for the team. For the first 1.5 to 2 miles, he stayed up with the leader of the race, showing the other members of his team that they could, in fact, keep up with and beat out St. Lawrence.

Baumgartner was very excited about the result of this weekend’s race, but he is already looking ahead to next weekend’s regional championship meet.

‘Although we all had a strong race on Saturday, we still need to be well prepared for regionals next Saturday, which will be the most important and most competitive meet of the season,” Baumgartner said.

The women’s team also reaped in a number of recognitions for its performance as well. Freshman Lauren Norton and junior Sadie Gollub both earned First Team All-State honors.
Norton finished in fifth place and Gollub placed in seventh. Junior Allie McComb also was a top UR finisher, placing 20th and earning Third Team All-State honors. The ‘Jackets had four runners in the top 25 runners sophomore Heather Graham finished 25th. Also, freshman Hillary Snyder turned in a strong race, placing 31st.

With four runners receiving First Team All-State honors, two earning Second Team and three receiving Third Team nods, the Yellowjacket men and women certainly proved themselves in the cross country circuit this past weekend.

The teams will look to hold on to that momentum and train hard in preparation for this weekend’s NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships hosted by St. Lawrence University and also to stay on track as they look to gain a National Championship appearance.

The top two teams in the region will receive automatic placement in the National Championship race. In addition, a selection committee may choose up to three more teams from each region based on the strength of the field.

The Atlantic Region is well-known for holding a particularly strong group of competitors and has consistently sent four or five teams to the national meet, providing promising hopes for the UR teams.

Rogers is a member of the class of 2012.

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