Brunnette wins individual title, qualifies for NCAA Nationals; Panthers finish 20th
GORHAM, Maine – Plymouth State University junior Sam Brunnette (Newport, Vt.) continued to add to his lengthy resume Saturday, winning the NCAA Division III New England Region Men's Cross Country Championship in a race hosted by the University of Southern Maine.
Brunnette's win automatically qualified him for the NCAA National Championships, which will be held Saturday (Nov. 18) at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.
The Panthers finished 20th overall in a field of 55 teams, a solid improvement over last fall's 26th place finish.
"Being a top-20 team was a season-long goal for the guys," said head coach John Ostler.
Brunnette finished the 8K course in 25:22, holding off a late push from Connecticut College junior Scott Mason (Wyndmoor, Pa.). Junior Warren Bartlett (Loudon, N.H.) was impressive as well, taking 41st overall with a time of 26:17.
"Warren ran great," said Ostler. "It was his best race of his career, all things considered. Forty-first place is a very fine result and nearly halves his performance from last year."
Freshman Jared Wolf (Tyngsborough, Mass.), junior Chiam Tendler (Manchester, N.H.) and freshman Marcus Cryan (Topsfield, Mass.) rounded out the top-five finishers for PSU. Wolf completed the race in 28:44, with Tendler posting at time of 28:56 and Cryan crossing the finish line in 29:17.
MIT took the team title with 81 points, narrowly finishing ahead of Amherst College's 91 points. Middlebury (124), Williams (137) and Bates (211) rounded out the top five. Host Southern Maine was the top Little East Conference finisher, taking 10th place, with Keene State (18th) finishing just ahead of PSU. UMass Dartmouth, which had finished in front of the Panthers at the LEC Championships two weeks ago, took 26th.
But the story of the day was Brunnette, who floated between fifth and tenth place over the first three miles. MIT junior Dennis Maloney (New Albany, Ohio) made a break and Brunnette settled into a chase pack of three runners. Realizing Maloney's lead was growing with a mile to go, Brunnette made his move. With just under 1K to go he moved past Maloney pretty quickly, but needed to fight off a late surge from Mason in the final 100 meters.
"Sam's race was a work of art," praised Ostler. "His effort today was a blend of strategy, patience and toughness. The course played to his strengths today – comprised of rolling hills, grassy footing and rewarding of stubborn runners who can close well even when heavily fatigued. Sam's win and the team race behind him was a high water mark for our program."
Brunnette will take the week to prepare for the National Championship race at the North Farm Facility in Elsah, Ill. The race will be broadcast, for a fee, by FloTrack, a subsidiary of FloSports, in a partnership with the NCAA and NCAA Digital. More information can be found at www.flotrack.org.
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