By Joe Iuliucci '18
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – A top-10 overall finish from James McDaid was the headliner of a host of highlights as the Ursinus College men's cross country team posted its best placing ever at the Paul Short Run hosted by Lehigh University.
The Bears finished 9th in a 36-team field, edging out last year's 10th-place showing for the top spot in their history at the 44th edition of the Mountain Hawks' annual meet. Ursinus' top three times all rank among the program's ten fastest 8k times since 2000.
The week leading up to the prestigious race, the men hungrily anticipated the opportunity to run fast and, to add to the excitement, gave each other mullets. Going into the race, temperatures were in the high 60s and humidity was low. The course itself was well manicured and the driest the team had ever seen it. The men were ready, and everything was in place for a fast 8k.
This year's White Race was especially competitive. The men's average time of 27:04 would have captured 4th place in last year's race. This was one place higher than their 2016 finish and 51 seconds faster than their 2016 average.
In a sprint off the line, almost 300 men with 36 teams vied for a position up front as the course quickly narrowed. The fast pace established from the gun suited McDaid, who led the Ursinus men with a 7th place finish in a time of 26:06. This was a massive personal best by over a minute and a half, and 2:17 faster than his race at last year's Paul Short Run. McDaid's 26:06 added up to an average pace of 5:16 per mile.
In second for the team, senior Joseph Iuliucci came within a second of his personal best from last year's Centennial Conference championship with a 26:48 that landed him 34th overall and gives him two of the team's top six marks over the last 13 years. Freshman Dylan Geissinger-Tuttle worked with Iuliucci through three miles and never fell far behind, finishing in a time of 27:06 to slice 1:08 off his 8k PR.
A mere 21 seconds later, freshman Matt Roeder crossed the line in 27:27, almost two and a half minutes faster than his race two weeks ago. Sophomores John Haase and Daniel Powell finished three seconds apart with commendable efforts of 27:52 and 27:55 to serve as the team's 5th and 6th men. Like Iuliucci, Haase fell less than a second shy of his personal benchmark – also from last season's conference championship – to land just outside the top 100.
The team's 7th man was junior Andrew Voyack, who finished in a respectable 28:09.
Moving forward, the men have two weeks until the Gettysburg Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 14th, where they will be able to preview the Conference Championship course. Assistant Coach Tyler Melius commented on the team's position at this point in the season.
"I like where we are at in terms of progression," he said. "It's nice to see a very strong top three, and then with seven other guys fighting for those four or five spots, that scores well."