The Trinity Tigers have loomed large in the collective mind of Colorado College Cross Country, ever since being edged out of both the men’s and women’s titles in 2013 by the San Antonio-based school. Exactly 366 days after these narrow defeats, the Colorado College Tigers exacted their revenge on Trinity in “grand fashion,” according to 34-year veteran Head Coach Ted Castaneda.
With their performance on Saturday, Nov. 1 in Boerne, Texas at the SCAC Championships, the Tigers did more than exact revenge—they ran directly into the record books.
Senior Nick Hall won his 3rd consecutive SCAC conference title and was named SCAC Runner of the Year. Sophomore Leah Wessler captured the individual title on the women’s side and led the women’s team to their first-ever team championship.
The men racked up six all-conference runners and the women finished with seven all-conference runners. Seven all-conference nods is the most in both the men’s and women’s team history.
The Tigers faced significant adversity on both the men’s and women’s side leading up to race day. The men were without top runner Graham Frank, an all-conference and all-region runner in 2013. Frank was held out of the race due to a severe case of shin splints. The women were without a full-strength Allie Crimmins due to illness.
Crimmins ran in the race but was limited and finished 12th with a time of 24:59, a time that Castaneda acknowledged is well below her capacity. Luckily for the Tigers, both the men’s and women’s rosters are deep with talent, and other runners filled the voids left by Crimmins and Frank.
Course conditions were also a significant factor for the Tigers. A storm hammered the course with three inches of rain on the Thursday preceding the Saturday race and left a soggy and muddy course in its wake. While other teams looked at the rain in disgust, the Tigers met the soft conditions with delight. A hilly and muddy course added up to a distinct advantage for the team.
Castaneda explained, “With a muddy and hilly course it turns into a strength test, a mental test. All the strength from your legs just goes straight into the ground, and you may not have the best times, but our high-altitude training and high mileage really paid off.”
Nick Hall led the fit and battle-hardened men’s team to a conference title victory that avenged the team’s loss at the hands of Trinity University in the 2013 SCAC Championships. In 2013 the Tigers were snubbed by a single point in the team competition. This year the Tigers of Colorado College left little room for doubt with an assertive 8 point victory over the Trinity Tigers.
The main threat to a repeat individual title for Hall was going to be Trinity’s Taylor Piske. Castaneda said, “I told Nick, ‘You’re defending champion, you have that psychological advantage over [Taylor Piske].’” He continued, “We knew going in that Taylor was going to try and come out fast and break [Nick] early. We told him, ‘Just stay with him, just stay within striking distance.’”
Hall has a reputation as a strong finisher, and the coaching staff knew that if Hall stayed within ten seconds of Piske he would have a shot at the individual title.
Hall, however, didn’t have quite the same conservative game plan in mind. “About three miles, three and three quarters in, Nick [Hall] caught the guy,” said Castaneda. “When he caught him he just went flying by. We were expecting that with about half a mile to go, but he just went flying by him.”
“The way he went out I thought it was going to be a longer battle,” said Hall. “But, when I caught him, I made a small move to test him and see how much he had left, but he never made a move back so I kept pushing the pace.” This proved to be the crucial part of the race for Hall. He went on to capture his second individual conference title with a time of 26:37.
Hall’s supporting cast proved extremely strong as well in the absence of Graham Frank.
Junior Tucker Hampson turned in a particularly impressive performance in 8th place overall with a time of 28:18. Castaneda said, “We needed him to be consistent, and he was.” Hampson made a drastic improvement from his 26th overall finish in 2013.
Sophomores Ryan Bing and Conor Terhune, as well as junior Jacob Rothman, also came in clutch for the Tigers and achieved their highest ever conference finishes.
Conor Terhune, a vastly improved runner and current team captain, turned in a “gutsy” performance according to Castaneda. “He had maybe a little too much to eat for breakfast, and I didn’t know it while he was out there, but he felt like maybe ‘upchucking’ so to speak on the course, but he battled through it.”
Jacob Rothman was not at full strength in the week leading up to race but was able to rely on a strong base of training to push through. Castaneda said, “He’s trained all summer, September, and October, and that really allowed him to ‘leapfrog’ as we say and he was a solid fifth runner for us.”
Coach Castaneda also had high praise for first-time Cross Country athlete Sam English who finished 12th overall and received all-conference honors. Freshman Ethan Holland was also a bright spot for the Tigers, clocking a time of 29:11 and finishing 16th overall.