The concept is pretty simple: the team that runs the fastest wins. If the NCAC and Mid–East Regional Championships are tallied, then the Allegheny Men’s Cross Country team was fast. Really fast.
The Gators took this speed to the highest level and placed third at the NCAA Division III Championship meet last Saturday, finishing ahead of 31 other teams and behind North–Central (Ill.) and Williams Colleges.
Jeramie Parker, ’11, placed 11th overall and Chris Marker, ’11, took 14th. Jake Zimmerman, ’10, Tony Dipre, ’10, and Zac Ross, ’11, were the other three scorers for the Gators, finishing 60th, 66th, and 109th, respectively.
Parker and Marker’s efforts earned them All–American recognition, which is an honor reserved for the elite top 35 runners at nationals. A quick number crunch reveals that the duo were in the top 15 percent of those competing last Saturday, while rough estimation of the number of Division III runners in the country reveals that the two were in the top .01 percent (There are 449 schools in Division III and each team races five runners).
“It’s a testament to their work ethic and desire to get better,” said Head Coach Bill Ross. “They weren’t decorated athletes coming out of high school.”
Parker and Marker were thrilled to achieve All–American status, but were more excited about the team’s outstanding race.
“I was happy with the finish. We did what we had to do for the team, we really came together and felt a sense of pride,” said Marker.
The Gators’ will was tested by the muddy and mostly uphill eight kilometers (including an entirely uphill final mile) at Highland Park Golf Course, the home course of Baldwin-Wallace College.
“I’ve never tried so hard and gone so slow,” Marker said.
“Everyone was suffering at the end,” added Parker.
In addition to the brutal course, Allegheny had to race against 269 other runners, making the battle for position more intense than any other meet. Both Marker and Parker remembered having to be careful not to fall, and have the spike marks to prove it.
Though Ross expected Marker and Parker to place high, he pointed out the performance of Zimmerman as an essential part of the third place finish.
“Zimmerman had the race of a lifetime,” Ross said, pointing out that Zimmerman beat Dipre and Ross, whom he had been finishing behind throughout the season.
The Gators look to build upon this year’s success and hope for another top four performance next season, with a national championship being a real possibility. The team is only losing two seniors, and will still have the speedy duo of Marker and Parker.
Ross will look to Matt Lacombe, ’11, and Pat McLaughlin, ’12, to fill the void left by Dipre and Zimmerman.
“We have the talent, as long as we stay focused, to do some damage,” Parker said. “The summer is going to be very important.”
From a coaching standpoint, Ross looks to maintain the same attitude that drove the team towards its success this year. He looks to maintain a businesslike atmosphere and rely on the team’s experience to guide them back to nationals.
This outlook will allow them to keep it simple and focus on what really matters: running fast. And if the Gators can build on this season’s success, then next year could very easily be a blur.