As seniors Nick End and Dana Irrer broke away from the giant field at the start of the Mideast Regional race at Dickinson College, they were not only inspired by the possibility of it being their last race, but also by the perceived lack of respect their team has encountered during the year. ?No one in the region gave us any respect throughout the entire season,? said End.
If they had not impressed their critics yet, Saturday?s second-place finish was certainly a good start. The CMU men secured a place in the NCAA national team championsips by beating such national
powers as Widener University and Allegheny College just a week after taking the UAA championship. Only Haverford, the eventual champions and the nation?s eighth-ranked team, outraced the Tartans.
End and Irrer led the Tartans, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Both started strong, breaking away from the pack at the mile mark with a group of 10 to 15 runners. After 2.5 miles, the pack dwindled to six, at which point the eventual winner, Yuot Macharia of Widener, broke free.
End and Irrer were still in the hunt for second place all the way up to the race?s final hill.
Accompanied by two rival runners from Haverford at the four-mile mark, though, the Carnegie Mellon pair ran out of gas and lost any chance of overtaking them.
?We were both dying going up the last hill,? said End. ?It was a very tough last stretch to go through after that pace of a race.?
In addition to End and Irrer, first-year Breck Fresen excelled in his first Mideast Regional race, placing 16th and gaining crucial points for the men?s team. End praised Fresen: ?He had a really great race; no one expected it.? Junior Mike Bridenbaugh and first-year Brian Harvey, meanwhile, finished 20th and 35th, respectively.
The team heads to nationals on November 19 at Ohio Wesleyan University, where they have an already stated goal of finishing in the top ten. Irrer and End also have high expectations. Says End, ?Dana and I are hoping to be as far up as we can, go up with the lead pack and fight our way to the finish, hoping to be All-American.?
Until nationals, though, there is time for the team to celebrate its upset finish as well as its newfound respect on the national level.
?It is pretty sweet, because no one thought we would qualify [for nationals],? said End. ?But we destroyed all the competition.?
On the women?s side, senior standout Jocelyn Sikora led the team to an impressive tenth-place finish at the Mideast Regionals. It was a sentimental race for the Tartans, who graduate four other seniors along with Sikora, all of whom have been key contributors since their freshman years.
?It was a good race that started off well,? said Sikora. ?There was a big pack, so it was easy to stay with people.?
In her last race as a Tartan, Sikora placed 18th, narrowly missing a spot in the NCAA individual championships. She set a new personal record with the time of 23:18.9, capping off a tremendous career as one of the top female runners in school history.
The Tartans competed against 42 other teams, consisting of 293 total runners. The tenth-place finish served as a big improvement from last year, when the team finished in 22nd place at the Regionals and was mostly a competitive afterthought.