Men's cross-country finishes eigth at NCAA championships

Considering that the Carnegie Mellon men?s cross-country team entered the season back in August near the bottom of their division, one would think that their accomplishments so far would satisfy them: stunning the UAA field to win the conference title, and then shocking the regional field by finishing third and qualifying for nationals. But for Saturday?s NCAA championship race, the team was not content just to be at the prestigious event; they ran to win.
Senior Dana Irrer, running in his last collegiate race, again lifted the team on his back and carried the Tartans to eighth place overall. The two-time all-American came out flying on the hilly, muddy, and narrow course, and managed to stay with the lead pack nearly the entire way. His final time of 25:39.9 was good for fifth place, and helped propel the team to eighth overall in the race.
?Dana had the race of his life,? said fellow senior standout Nick End. ?It was a great finish against a lot of talented runners.?
In many ways, despite the magnitude of the occasion, it was a fairly standard race for the Tartans. Irrer and End got out fast in the lead pack of 50 runners as they have much of the year. By the first mile, the group slimmed down to 20 runners, with both Irrer and End comfortably in the mix. Finally, in the last two miles the pace accelerated considerably and End finally dropped off the pace, finishing 50th overall. Irrer, meanwhile, stayed close to the leaders until the final mile, when Neal Holtschulte of Williams College pulled away for the victory.
The supporting cast of junior Mike Bridenbaugh and first-years Brian Harvey and Bill Lordan once again made valuable contributions, earning critical team points. Bridenbaugh finished 100th, Harvey was 137th, and Lordan placed 155th in the massive field. These points proved critical because, with a total
of 303, the Tartans inched past UAA rival University of Chicago by a single point.
The result was especially exciting for the Tartans because in many ways it was a sub-par race for them as a whole, and they still managed to finish in the top 10 in the country.
?We really didn?t run that well and we still got eighth as a team,? said End. ?This was exciting because the top 10 teams in the nation are seen as dominant and now we?re in there.?
Even with the impending
departures of End and Irrer, the Tartans are now firmly entrenched within the nation?s elite teams. This year?s team was the highest-ranked team ever under head coach Dario Donatelli, and next year, four first-years from the team will return, as will rising seniors, Geoff Misek and Mike Bridenbaugh.
?I think it?ll always be hard to replace the top two runners,? said End. ?They should have a very strong season next year though ? a lot of good guys coming back.?