The men’s cross country team lit up the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships over the weekend, finishing in the top five out of over 35 teams. The impressive finish was enough to get them one of the 16 NCAA championships at large bids.

“Our team performed at a level that we knew we were capable of,” junior James Vavra said. “We ran a smart race and stuck with the guys that we needed to run with. We knew going into the meet who the teams to beat were so we just had to run accordingly.”

The team will rely on strong upperclassmen to catapult them onto the national scene. Vavra, who was the top finisher for the Yellowjackets and took 18th place at the race last week, will be looked upon to lead the charge.

UR will also need the guidance of senior Brian Lang, who competed at nationals last season in Cleveland, Ohio. While he didn’t finish in the top half last season, his experience will give the Yellowjackets that extra boost.

“Our guys ran really well this weekend, they stayed calm and didn’t let the opportunity slip away,” Lang said. “If we can do that next weekend, we have the chance to do something really special.”

Adding to the accomplishments at the Atlantic Regionals, Vavra, Lang and seniors Daniel Lane, Craig Baumgartner and Jon Pinto all received All-Region honors for their top 35 finishes.

“I know the guys are excited about the bid to nationals, but as a coach I am most pleased that they feel the best is yet to come,” men’s head coach John Izzo said. “I have great faith that they will rise to the occasion.”

Also making it into the NCAA Championships was junior Hillary Snyder, who runs for the women’s team. She was one of the lucky 56 that were not on a NCAA qualifying team to make it into the tournament.

She led the Yellowjackets at the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships, finishing in 12th place out of the 236 individual competitors. The team behind Synder finished in 15th place out of the 33 teams that raced.

“I am very excited that Hillary is getting a chance to run at nationals,” women’s head coach Barbara Hartwig said. “It’s a great experience. I am also glad she is a junior, as you learn a lot that first time and hopefully she can go again as a senior. She ran a smart race and closed really well.”

Manrique is a member of the class of 2012.

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