MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University men's cross country team is preparing for the NCAA Regional Championship this Saturday at Gorham Country Club in Maine.
The Jumbos have had success at the meet in the past. Last season, they came in fifth out of 56 teams. The season before that they finished third out of 55, and in 2014 they were sixth of 54.
Michael Schmidt, Director of Men's Cross Country, explained the process that team's must go through in order to qualify from Regionals to Nationals.
"The top two teams earn automatic berths to Nationals with 16 at-large bids available across the eight regions," Schmidt said. "Typically, our competitive New England region will earn between two and four additional at-large bids for the men in addition to the two auto teams. After at-large teams are chosen, the top seven individuals on teams that don't qualify will earn individual bids to NCAAs."
Tufts' goal will be to qualify as a team for Nationals. In order to do that, like Schmidt explained, they will need to place either first or second at the Regionals meet. If they don't do that, they could still be one of 16 teams to earn an at-large bid. Last season with their fifth-place finish, the team didn't automatically qualify nor did they earn an at-large bid. Seniors Tim Nichols and Luke O'Connor competed individually at Nationals.
After the loss of Nichols and O'Connor, the top runners from last year, the team has stressed working with each other as more of a pack in races this year. They've gotten some good results so far. The Jumbos finished second out of four teams at the Bates Invitational, 10th of 26 at the Purple Valley Classic, ninth of 24 at the Paul Short Invitational, sixth of 14 at the All-New England Championships, seventh of 20 at the Connecticut College Invitational, and sixth of 11 at the NESCAC Championship.
At Regionals, each team is allowed to send out seven runners. According to Schmidt, competing for Tufts will be juniors Dylan Jones, Andrew Doherty Munro, Colin Raposo, Brian Reaney, Christian Swenson, Hiroto Watanabe, and freshman Patrick Nero.
Jones has been the Jumbo's top finisher in two races so far this season, at the Bates Invitational and at the Connecticut College Invitational. He has been in Tufts' top five in all five races he has competed in. At Regionals last year, Jones was the fifth finisher for the squad.
Doherty Munro was the third Jumbo to cross the finish line at Connecticut College. He was also the team's fifth finisher at the NESCAC Championship meet two weeks ago. He competed at Regionals last year and while he didn't score for the Jumbos, he will be going into this year with that experience.
Raposo has perhaps had the best season on the team so far. He has finished in the Jumbo top five in all five of his races, four of those finishes being either first or second. He was the top finisher at the Paul Short Invitational and NESCACs, he was second at Bates and Connecticut College, and fifth at the Purple Valley Classic.
Reaney has had himself a good year as well. He was the squad's top finisher at the Purple Valley Classic, second at Paul Short and NESCACs, fourth at Connecticut College, and fifth at Bates. He is the top returning runner from last year's Regionals. He was the third finisher for Tufts and came in 37th overall.
Swenson placed second for the Jumbos at the Purple Valley Classic and was fourth two weeks ago at NESCACs. He is the only runner going into this weekend having competed at two previous NCAA Regionals. Last year he was fourth for the Jumbos and the year before that, as a freshman, he was fifth and 33rd overall.
Watanabe was third for the Jumbos at the Paul Short Invitational. He competed at NESCACs as well, didn't score, but did come in 44th overall.
Nero is the only freshman to come in Tufts' top five multiple times this year. He was third at the Purple Valley Classic, fourth at Paul Short, and fifth at Connecticut College.
The NCAA Championships will be the following weekend on Nov. 18 at the North Farm Cross Country Facility in Illinois.