By ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK - Check it out, check it out.
The roster of all-time Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America cross country champions simply oozes history.
The Association - or IC4A in track-speak - has been around since 1876. Its first cross country title meet was held in 1908. And what great names this race has produced.
Among the most noted of the notable:
Cornell’s John Paul Jones (no, not the admiral), three-time IC4A XC king (1910-11-12), Olympic 1500-meter fourth-placer in 1912; NYU’s Leslie MacMitchell (1939-40-41 winner) who ran a world record-equaling 4:07.4 indoor mile in 1941; Penn State’s Curtis Stone (1946 titlist), who went on to run in three Olympic Games (1948-52-56); Army’s Dick Shea (1949-50-51 winner), who, heroically, was to give his life for his nation in Korea.
As well as: Michigan State’s Henry and Crawford Kenendy (brothers who would hog this race for their family five straight years, 1955-59); Cornell’s Steve Machooka (1961), considered the first great Kenyan to grace the American collegiate scene; Villanova’s Vic Zwolak (1962-63), Olympic steeplechaser in 1964; Villanova’s Sydney Maree(1978-79), who set American records at 1,500 and 5,000 meters; Peter Rono of Mount St. Mary’s, who won the Olympic 1,500 gold (1988) before he won the IC4A XC gold (1990); and Army’s Dan Browne (1996), Olympic 10,000 man in 2004, Olympic marathoner in 2008.
Who can even guess if Everett Hackett is destined for any kind of future greatness?
But at least this George Mason University sophomore from West Hartford, Connecticut, has taken the all-important first step.
When he ran off with the IC4A Championship - over the historic 8.000-meter course at Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday, November 21st - he joined a most exalted list that began with H.C. Young of Cornell in 1908 and stretched, for a century, all the way to Josh Eddy of Duquesne in 2008.
Hackett did it the hard way in this 101st edition of the IC4A race,
rallying over the make-or-break Cemetery Hill to run down the early leaders and get to the wire in 25:22.3, just ahead of William and Mary’s Chris Tyson (25:24.9) and the Duke duo of Andrew Brodeur (25:28.4) and Ken Sullivan (25:29.3.)
“Oh my God,” said Hackett moments after he’d claimed the IC4A crown.
“Hundred-and-one years, that’s more than five times the age of me.
“Winning the IC4A, that’s just awesome to me. A hundred-and-one years, how many other sporting events can say that they have a history that long?
“And I think I was Mason’s first IC4A cross country champion, too. Wow, that means a lot.”
In past years, Mason (of Fairfax, Va.) gained a reputation for its sprint and jumps-oriented track program. But under coach Andrew Gerard, Mason’s becoming a distance power.
“Coach told us to take some risks today; he knows what he’s doing; he’s one of the best in the business,” said Hacektt.
“It was the last race of our season, so why not? If you go out hard and you die, well you die. Don’t worry. So I went out well, and on Cemetery (Hill), I just had the guts, I guess, to do it. I just saw it, and kicked it in as hard as I could, and it was there for me.”
Almost all the Mason runners wore some kind of whiskers. It was their
statement: a “no-shave November.”
The Hackett family was out in force to support their champion, even grandpa
Peter Solomon, who has lived the running life for years and years, and will run the classic Manchester, Ct. Road Race on Thanksgiving Day.
When Duke first won the IC4A team title in 2005, and won it again in 2008,
it represented major strides for a place best known as “a basketball school.”
Under Coach Norm Ogilvie, the Durham, N.C. Blue Devils are coming on strongly as a major track and XC power, too. After Brodeur and Sullivan went 3-4,
Ryan McDermott claimed eighth, Mike Moverman 11th and Dominick Robinson 15th, to wrap up a 41-point team total that won it decisively over William and Mary (67), Mason (113) and 10 other schools.
Duke is obviously building for the future. Sullivan is the only senior in the Blue Devils’ scoring group; McDermott is a junior, Brodeur, a sophomore, and Moverman and Robinson freshmen.
“I’m a New York guy (a graduate of Long Island’s East Islip High School), so I know the history of the IC4A meet, and all it represents,” said Ogilvie. I remember taking a day off from school, back in 1975 (when the event was held on a Monday) and coming here and seeing David Merrick of Penn win it. I remember how it exciting it was.”
Merrick was the first collegian to break 24 minutes at Van Cortlandt and his 23:51.0 remains the fastest-ever IC4A clocking, although the course and the surfacing have changed, and the designated distance from 1982-96 was 10,000 meters.
“Now that I’m back on the East Coast (after attending Drake University and coaching at Colorado), we’ll always keeping coming back to the IC4A. It’s something really special, you’ve just to keep coming. The IC4A is a great tradition and we want to support it. Our kids will take today and remember it for a long time.”
The IC4A is a member-orga nization of the Eastern College Athletic Conference
(ECAC) but retains its own designation within the multi-sport group. Thus, the women’s championship, which was first held in 1985, is called the ECAC title race.
A newer kid on the block, so to speak, the ECAC race has still managed to produce
an array of notable champions, with Villanovans topping the list: Vicki Huber (1989), Sonia O’Sullivan (1990-91), Carole Zajac (1992-93) and Jen Rhines (1994-95.)
Yes, but who’d step into the vacated shoes of 2008 champion Nicole Cochran of Harvard?
If you had trouble trying to get that answered, it wasn’t a case of double vision.
It was simply Stony Brook’s twin terrors, Lucy and Holly Van Dalen sopping over the line in virtual unison. Lucy covered the 5,000-meter route in 17:03.3, Holly in 17:05.6.
William and Mary’s Meghan Burns was the swiftest non-Van Dalen, third in 17:14.7, easily ahead of Boston College fourth-placer Caroline King (17:26.4.)
“I’m from New Zealand,” said Lucy Van Dalen. “From Wanganui, actually,”
“Going into the last mile, it was just the two of us and the William and Mary runner,” said Lucy. “We’d basically dropped all the others by then. Then we just ran away.”
“It was pretty good,” said Holly.
Better than pretty good, really.
Even though both the 5,000-meter and 8,000-meter courses were configured, because of ongoing construction projects at Van Cortlandt Park, the Van Dalens’ times were the fastest ECAC performances since Kristine Jost of Villanova won the 1996 race in 16:26.0.
“I know the ECAC has a lot of history behind it,” said Lucy. “We’re just happy to be part of that history now.”
Of course, Stony Brook, on New York’s Long Island, is half a world away from
Wanganui, on New Zealand’s North Island.
So how did they find their way to the Suffolk County campus?
“We were recruited by Coach Andy Ronan,” said Lucy. “There are a lot of
other internationals on the team, and he’s made us all feel right at home.”
“Stony Book has a wonderful campus and lots of friendly people,” said Holly. “We just love it, and we love the American system,.”
“We’d certainly still be running, and going to a university, if we’d stayed at home
in New Zealand. But Stony Brook has given us a great opportunity and we are very grateful.”
While Stony Brook was going 1-2, its backup runners were 11-31-71 fora total of 116 points and a third-place tie with James Madison.
Boston College wound up winning the ECAC team crown, 54-60, over William and Mary.
Back of King in fourth, B.C. had Lauren Johnston in sixth, Brielle Chabot
in 13th, Kelly Gross in 14th and Bridget Dahlberg in 17th for its 54 points.
“Caroline (King) has some asthma problems this year, and we had to figure things out,” said B.C. associate coach Erin O’Reilly. “This was a great, great race for her, as well as all her teammates.
“It was very meaningful to all of us. For the seniors, especailly, to win the ECAc in their last race, that meant an awful lot.”
Backing up these ICAC and ECAC Championship races were University Division
events for second-tier runners. The men’s event saw New Jersey Institute of Technology sophomore Christian Baumbach first over the line in 25:36.8, but Temple’s Eddie Penatar and Mike May in 2-3, and leading the Philadelphia Main Line Owls, a rising power in the sport, take the team crown by a decisive 70-131-147 over Albany and New Hampshire.
A 17:25.0 performance by Brenae Edwards gave Pennsylvania’s Mansfield University its first-ever ECAC crown, with Marist (85), Albany (119) and Towson (137) going 1-2-3 in the team battle.
Special “coaches” races for reserve runners went to LaSalle’s Mark DelMonaco (27:42.7) and Delaware’s Sarah Ports (19:25.3.) Stirring as all this was, the sport’s realists recognize that the IC4A and ECAC Championships are no longer the biggest game in town, or at least on the East Coast.
Once the NCAA went to a system of separate Regional qualifying races, it was no
longer possible for the IC4A and ECAC events to retain their historic luster.
Attempts were made to keep the IC4A and ECAC races as the Regional qualifying events, but were eventually discarded.
But while such schools as Syracuse, Princeton, Harvard. Duke, Boston College.
William and Mary, and West Virginia were to be represented at the NCAA Division Championships on Monday, Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana, they also had enough depth – and determination to support a great tradition - to be well represented at the IC4A and ECAC races, too.
And so there was glory in it for all.