PHYLLIS GRABER JENSEN/BATES COLLEGE

Nico Johnson ‘19 finished fourth for the Bobcats, playing an important role in the team’s standout fourth place finish.

The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) is notoriously one of the most competitive Division III conferences in the country. Several schools such as Amherst, Williams, and Tufts are often nationally ranked. Therefore, when Bates’ cross country team finished fourth out of 11 schools at the Championship meet at Franklin Park in Boston on Oct. 27, it should be recognized as a tremendous accomplishment.

Before the Championship meet, the team competed against several nationally ranked NESCAC schools at the Connecticut College Invitational on Oct. 13. Here, the team had a tough start, raced through muddy course conditions, and finished in 14th place out of a field of 27 teams, while Amherst, Williams, Middlebury, and Tufts finished in the top four. Regardless of the conditions, the men knew they could have competed with a smarter race strategy and returned to Bates eager to come back strong at the conference championships.

“Our team has been focusing on many things throughout the year,” Head Men’s Cross Country Coach Al “Fresh” Fereshetian said. “One of those has been to develop a culture of challenge, which means to be prepared to take risks.”

“We want to anticipate success and to be motivated by the excitement of the moment,” Fresh continued. “We really learned from our mistakes at Conn. College where we got out too slowly and buried ourselves in a huge field. The poor conditions on that day prevented us from moving up through the field effectively.”

Led by Coach Fresh, the Bobcats maximized their training between the two meets and learned from their mistakes as they ran their best effort of the season at the Championship meet. Not only did they beat three nationally ranked teams, Conn. College, Tufts, and Bowdoin, they also persevered through grueling conditions and surpassed their No. 8 ranking in the conference.

“The team did a fantastic job at the NESCAC meet,” Coach Fresh said. “This time around we went out very well and established our position in the first mile of the race to battle with the other top teams. From there, most of our team was able to really execute our race plan and the results were great. With the brutal weather conditions, it just made the whole thing that much more fun. They had to challenge themselves with not only the competition, but the conditions as well.”

2016 NESCAC Rookie of the Year James Jones ’20 lead the team with his eighth-place finish, earning Second Team All-NESCAC honors. Henry Colt ’19, Justin Levine ’20, Nico Johnson ’19, and Mark Fusco ’19 finished 17th, 19th, 32nd, and 35th respectively. Tucker Barber ’21 and Henry Raff ’22 were the team’s two displacers, finishing 41st and 43rd. The fact that all of the members of the top 7 finished in the top 50 speaks volumes to the impressive talent and depth of this team.

“The team had a really strong performance, we were able to build off each other’s drive to succeed and we handled the tough weather better than most,” Jones said.

“For our team to do well, we need each individual to perform as well as possible,” Coach Fresh said. “Our top runners did a fantastic job of running where they were capable of and competing and we had some guys like Fusco, Barber, and Raff really step up.”

The team’s next target is the Division III New England Regional Championships, which is set to take place at Bowdoin College on Nov. 10. Regionals is the focus of the season every year and the Bobcats are excited to continue the success they were able to accomplish at NESCACs.

“Our focus next week will again be to embrace the challenge of the moment and to be really present and prepared for the meet,” Coach Fresh said. “This is a great team; the chemistry is tremendous and our leadership is top shelf. The energy that the entire team has brought to the season has been inspirational and I know that they will give all that they have on that day. What happens from there is maybe beyond our control, so we will focus on putting our best effort out there and accept the results that follow.”