By: DAN MARCUS
The Allegheny Men’s Cross Country team was unable to defend the North Coast Athletic Conference Title for what would have been the eighth straight year last weekend.
The Gators were outpaced by the Big Red of Wabash by a slight margin with Allegheny finishing at 65 and Wabash pulling ahead with 52 points scored.
First team all-conference performers Kevin Edwards, ’13, and Pat McLaughlin, ’12, placed fifth and sixth. Each split 25:44 at the finish line. Junior Bobby Over came in at eighth place overall despite battling an illness earlier in the week. He finished slightly over his normal pace with a split of 26:05.
Coach Brent Wilkerson credited McLaughlin with an impressive regular season, despite his inability to meet his usual time in the NCAC championships.
McLaughlin credits his high expectations and attitude with his success this season.
“I think the difference this year has been the consistency of my training and just generally approaching races with a more relaxed mindset,” said McLaughlin. “I went into the conference meet pretty confident in where I was capable of finishing and it just worked out.”
Senior Mike Vlah, who also earned second team all-conference honors in addition to Over, finished with a time of 26:24, coming at 14th overall. Rounding out the scoring for the Gators was freshman Alex Simon, whose time of 27:23 earned him a 35th place finish.
Simon and fellow rookie James Rynes were bright spots for the Gators throughout the season, and Wilkerson credited both for stepping up to the challenge and keeping the times close.
After graduating five of their top seven runners last spring, the Gators kept their eyes on another NCAC championship title. While disappointed with their second place finish, the Gators and their coach were satisfied with their performance as a young squad.
“The regular season was definitely a success as we had to deal with replacing most of our top guys,” said Wilkerson. “Our guys rose to the challenge though and stepped up and excelled.”
The Gators will shift their focus to the regional meet, which will be held on November 12 at DeSales College in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Unlike last year, the team will enter this year’s regional matchups as the underdog.
“I think we are all pumped to race in a situation where we have nothing to lose and can be the team that surprises people this year,” said McLaughlin.
The Gators still have their eyes on nationals.
“We will have to finish in the top four as a team to have a realistic shot at getting an at large bid to nationals,” said Edwards. “Fortunately, this team is capable of doing that, and everyone is determined to make that a reality.”
Despite their second place finish and their reliance on some young talent, the Gators insist that they are able to compete on a national stage.
“We are still focused and determined to get there and show that Allegheny does not rebuild,” said Edwards. “We reload.”