On Oct. 22, the men’s cross country team competed in the Battle for the Buggy Race in Lancaster, Pa. The race, which has been run for eight years, is unique in that it allows alumni to participate in addition to the current college runners. This year, it was Elizabethtown College alumnus Greg Wetzel ‘06 who won the race in 21:12.40 followed by another Etown alumnus Chris Heisey ’10 with a time of 21:47.40.
The current men’s team was not going to give up without a fight and first-years Dan Gresh and Matt Rever finished in fourth and fifth. Adding solid runs for the men, sophomore Ian Hamilton and first-year Ricky Sturtz helped Etown see four of their current runners finish in the top 10 and seven of the nine runners finished in the top 15.
Despite a good showing by the current men’s team, it was the Etown alumni team who finished in first, surpassing the current men by just 2 points. Head Coach Brian Falk and the current runners see no cause for alarm by being outrun this late in the season by alumni and view it more as a tribute to the strength of the program overall and to the talented individuals who continue running competitively even after graduation.
“There were a lot of really good athletes on that alumni team, so it wasn’t a total fluke that they won,” Falk stated. “The kids that we ran are pretty good athletes too so it was a lot of good running going on up front.”
As for the alumni running so well, Falk noted, “I love that our alumns are active and so many of them are still running hard. Most of the alumns in that race ran at NCAA Championship meets when they were here. There were All-American’s in that group.”
First-year Dan Gresh, who finished fourth, noted that, “It just goes to show how hard the cross country runners from Elizabethtown work.” When asked how it felt to have past runners finish before he did, he stated that it was “not as bad as I would have thought it to be. I’d rather lose to them than someone else from another team.”
Falk supplied further insight to the way the race was set up. He explained that the top six men did not run in this race due to the upcoming MAC Championships the following weekend.
In cross country, a runner can be expected to run four or five good races a season before they stop improving notably and reach a plateau. Had the top team run in this race, those men would have run five races over the course of six weeks “and that’s too much to ensure that they’re going to run their best in November,” said Falk.
“I don’t feel good about not having them run in that race, but that’s the way the season works,” Falk added. “It would have been reckless of me to put them in there.”
For as long as the race has been run, it has occurred on this same weekend, something that Falk would like to try to change over the course of time that he coaches here. “Everyone loves this meet,” he explains, “and I’d love to get everyone in there.” Gresh testified to this statement, saying that the meet provides “a good time to hang out with the other guys who aren’t on the team anymore.”
“Most of them are still young and fit and not old and broken down like the coach,” Falk joked, “ so they should be coming back here and running well and I’m grateful that they do.”
With the last of the regular season meets behind them, Falk and the men’s team is setting their sights on regionals. “Everybody gets a bid to regionals, so there will be 45 or 50 teams at regional championships,” Falk explained. “Our whole season is based around that one day, because that’s the day that you either qualify for nationals or you don’t. It’s a lot of pressure, because you can run all year long but if you don’t at regionals… if you catch a cold or if you slip… well, that’s just the nature of our sport.”
He urges all students who are able to carpool up to DeSales on Nov. 12 for the meet. The women will run at 11 a.m. and the men will run at noon.