A-10 Championships Looming for XC Teams

Jack Sheehy-

Known by his teammates as the “Physical Specimen,” Ramsay Ritchie ’18 has been the ‘Cats top finisher in their first two meets. Photo by Ian Robertson

Competing in their 4th Atlantic 10 season, Davidson’s men’s and women’s Cross Country teams are seeking to make their mark on the conference this fall. “We’ve just increasingly made a bigger and bigger impact in the A10 . . . since I’ve been here,” said senior Sarah Sears, captain of the women’s team. “This year, I think it’s the real deal. We should be very near the top.”

As for the Wildcat men, junior Dylan Carmack is also optimistic about his squad’s chances. “The goal is always to win a conference championship, and I think we are trending in a direction such that we will have a chance at getting a team title,” he said, “but really top three is a good finish.”

While neither group of Wildcats will run against all their A-10 opponents until the teams’ Conference Championships on October 28 in Leesburg, VA, both teams are currently hard at work, grinding through their non-conference regular seasons.

The two Wildcat teams opened their seasons at the Charlotte Preview meet on September 1 versus UNC-Charlotte. The women claimed a 22-37 victory over the 49ers with Sears placing first for Davidson and second overall. Sophomore Maddie Hunter and junior Caroline Yarbrough took the third and fourth slots, respectively.

Falling 44-18 to UNCC, the Wildcat men did not fare quite as well. Senior Ramsay Ritchie led the team with a fourth place finish and a time of 15:49.1. Both Carmack, who came in second for Davidson, and freshman Jack Ryan, who placed eighteenth overall, noted that this was certainly not the team’s best race. “We definitely weren’t as ready as we wanted to be to run that one,” Ryan said, “but it was a rust-buster.”

Next, both the men and women’s teams raced in the Adidas XC Challenge on September 15 in Cary, NC. This meet featured bigger schools from the Big Ten and ACC, but the Wildcat teams held their own. The women cruised to a third place finish, posting 79 points and defeating Richmond, who took the A10 crown last season, and Wake Forest. Sears again led the Wildcats, and she, along with Hunter and Senior Sierra Ponthier, notched personal-best times. To have three runners set personal records, according to Yarbrough, is “a huge accomplishment so early in the season that foreshadows even greater improvement as the season progresses.”

The men, too, had a strong day against a tough field of bigger schools, grabbing fifth place and finishing ahead of A10 opponents Richmond and VCU. Ritchie was the ’Cats top runner again, this time claiming twenty-fifth place overall. “In both of [our] meets Ramsay Ritchie has led the charge and run great,” said men’s coach Renny Waldron.

The other four scoring runners for Davidson were Carmack, Alex Hazan ’20, Will Jones ’19, and Ryan, who finished second through fifth, in that order. Both teams, of course, are looking to build on the positives from last fall. The 2016 Wildcat women placed fourth in the A10 Championship meet, behind only Richmond, Dayton, and Duquesne, and eighteenth at the NCAA D1 Southeast Regional. Although four runners graduated with the class of 2017, the women will look to many of the same key runners, including Sears, Yarbrough, and Hunter, to propel them to success this fall.

Sears recognizes that the core group of runners on this year’s squad is poised to succeed “This kind of is, finally, this perfect mix of people who are really talented, really hard-working, and really fit,” Sears said. Though led by Ritchie and Carmack, the men’s team will need to count on younger runners, with the departure of Walker Mogen ’17 and Will Brewster ’17. The ‘Cats placed seventh in the A10 and seventeenth in the Southeast Region.

Freshmen, particularly Jake Carver and Ryan, are making an impact. “[The freshmen] have been doing pretty well considering that college is a big difference from high school in terms of the intensity and commitment and then, of course, the distance that we race, too,” Carmack said, noting the jump from 5k in high school to 8k in college. “It’s really cool to see Jack and Jake do really well…”

Both Carmack and Waldron praised sophomore Alex Hazan. “To have guys like [Alex Hazan] step up and start racing well whenever you need them to fill in some pretty big shoes has been incredible [and] is crucial for continued success,” Carmack said.

“Alex Hazan has improved a great deal this year and put in a great summer of training, and you can see the excitement that his improvement has brought to the team,” Waldron added.

Members of both teams stressed that cross-country truly is a team sport and cited their teams’ chemistry as essential components of success on the course. “The team dynamic is excellent on and off the cross country course,” Yarbrough said. “At practice and meets, everyone is focused on performing to the best of their ability, knowing that giving 100% each day will only make our teammates better.”

“We are a not a group of individuals who run; we are a team that runs,” Carmack stated. “Every single person who is on the team, regardless of ability, is contributing and making everyone else better.”

He added: “Every year we are getting faster, every year we are getting closer with each other and just having that level of friendship has been incredible for our success as a team.”

Each Wildcats team has two more regular season meets prior to the A10 Championship and the Southeast Regional Championship. On Saturday, the men will run their first 8k of the fall at the Mason XC Invitational in Fairfax, VA, and the women are slated to compete in the Greater Louisville Classic.

Looking ahead for both teams, Sears put it best: “There’s a lot of different running that’s going to happen between now and championship season . . . and there’s still a lot of growth and development for the men’s and women’s teams.”