In the last open meet before the Championships phase of the season, the Captains made the short trip up I-64 to Williamsburg for W&M's Cross Country Open. With a pack of CNU XC Alumni tailgating and cheering the current squad on, the Captains unleashed a few surprises.
A small group of recent CNU XC Alumni took advantage of a picturesque fall morning to have a tailgate party and cheer on the current Captains at William & Mary's Cross Country Open. The course on the grounds of Eastern State Hospital features a constant flow of hills including a few quick and very steep ascents - definitely not a course designed for fast times. Spurred on by their alumni supporters, the Captains showed off some known strengths and a few surprises.
In an exercise of tactical preparations, this year's men's team leader Raymond Gamache (King George, VA) was instructed to hold back a bit for the first two miles before chasing down the lead pack. He followed orders and cruised along with teammate William Kirk (Mechanicsville, VA) through the first lap and a half of the course and then picked up the pace. After rolling by a group of unattached runners, he made relatively quick work of North Carolina State's main pack and got to the finish in 11th place overall. His 26:05 was his second best time ever and probably even rates as superior to his 25:36 two weeks ago on Salisbury's quick course.
Kirk held on for a 20th place finish in 27:01 and was likewise a top performance in his career. Stalking the two upperclassmen throughout the race was sophomore Patrick Cunningham (Williamsburg, VA), finishing 15 seconds behind Kirk in 23rd place.
Brad Turner, Chris Allen, Sam Martin
The rest of the field was a stream of royal where the last eight spots on the 12-man Conference roster were on the line (Corey Lofton (Vienna, VA) holds one of those spots, but sat this race out). Sophomore Aaron Zook (Harrisonburg, VA) continued his strong season finishing #4 for the Captains (28:03).
Then came the surprises.
Chris Allen (Reston, VA) ran 28:24 and #12 for the Captains two weeks ago at Salisbury -- that race was a significant step forward for him. Allen took a leap with his race through the Williamsburg hills, posting a 28:06 - an 8k best - and finishing #5 for the Captains. Six seconds later, the next surprise crossed the finish as Gabriel Wentlandt (Woodbridge, VA) became the fourth lead rookie in four races this year. It was Wentlandt's first 8k race and virtually matched his pace from the season-opening 6k at Virginia Wesleyan.
A little further back, juniors Daniel Austin (Culpeper, VA) (28:31) and Scott Wright (Oak Hill, VA) (28:54) cruised to performances that rate as high as any in their careers.
Jade Zaharoff (Vienna, VA) has been simply solid leading the women's squad through the fall. After posting one of the fastest times in CNU history two weeks ago, she finished under 24 minutes again on a much tougher course. Even more promising for the senior - she looked completely within herself for the entire 6 kilometers.
Erin Rolaf, Jess McClelland, Julie Machamer
The next trio of Captains battled not only the competition and the course, but each other. Sophomores Erin Rolaf (Woodbridge, VA), Jessica McClelland (Stafford, VA), and Julie Machamer (Norfolk, VA) took turns leading each other through the first lap and a half of the course. Eventually Machamer - in her first XC season - lost touch with her teammates as Rolaf and McClelland upped the tempo with their own see-saw battle. Rolaf finally won out, showing that her ailing leg is getting stronger as the Championships near. She finished 25th overall (24:30) with McClelland arriving seven seconds later - and nearly two minutes faster than last year on the same course. Machamer finished 32nd (25:31).
Karen Bumiller (Burke, VA) was the final scorer for the Captains (38th - 26:39). Closing fast behind her was frosh Brittney House (Midlothian, VA) (27:08). Sophomore Ashley Doerner (Fairfax Station, VA) completed the 6,000m of hills in 28:39 - nearly two minutes faster than her freshman time.
The USTFCCCA Regional Polls kept both squads ranked at #8 in the South/Southeast Region heading in to the final month of the season. Raymond Gamache picked up his third USA South Runner of the Week honor of the season.
Up next is the USA South Conference Championships at Hagan-Stone Park in Greensboro, NC. Shenandoah's women spoiled the Captain's winning streak last year leaving the women in royal hungry to regain their title. The men should also get a strong challenge from the Hornets as they look to extend their Conference win streak to 19 years.
For complete CNU Results, check out the Results Page