Cross-Country Closes out Strong Season on Sour Note

Although not quite the finish they hoped for, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams capped off a season that saw the program making strides in the right direction.

The Roadrunners concluded their season in the Atlantic Region of the 2012 NCAA Championships with the men placing 20th overall and the women finishing 23rd.

Senior Tim Paziora led the way for the men, finishing 69th overall out of a field of 297 competitors with a time of 26:53.50. However, Paziora and his teammates all fell short of qualifying for the NCAA Division III National Championship this Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

“It could have gone better,” Paziora said. “A lot of people had a rough race. They were beat up from a long season.”

Freshman Paul Juelis finished in 94th at 27:10.20, while sophomore Pat Rochford clocked in at 27:23.50.

On the women’s side, freshman Brianna Springsteadah earned Ramapo’s top finish, placing 118th with a 24:20:30 time. In her final cross-country meet, senior Taylor Shanley trailed closely in 120th overall.

Head coach Mike Jackson said regionals was “definitely not the performance we expected,” but said the women all improved this season. Junior Courtney Schofield finished at 178, but she was awarded NJAC Second Team All-Conference honors.

Seven men and seven women represented Ramapo in Rochester, but senior Dan Sewnig, who earned the eighth highest qualifying time among Ramapo’s men, traveled with the team as an alternate. When Colin English became a last-second scratch due to a nagging foot injury, Sewnig filled in, finishing fifth among his teammates with a 28:20.80 time.

Jackson looked on the bright side, pointing out that English can earn redemption during the track and field season.

“The beautiful thing about what we do is we have two more seasons with indoor and outdoor track,” he said.

While Sewnig was eager to compete, he felt bad about replacing English, who made the NJAC First Team All-Conference and looked poised to make a run at advancing to nationals.

“He’s worked really hard this year and definitely had a shot at qualifying for nationals,” Sewnig said. “I wanted to run, but not under those circumstances by any means.”

Sewnig also witnessed his younger brother Jon qualify for nationals this year. The sophomore from Rowan University finished 13th overall from a field of 297 runners. Sewnig was proud of his brother’s feat, despite achieving it with Ramapo’s rival team.

“It was very cool seeing him qualify for nNationals, but at the same time I wish he was here,” Sewnig said.

Leading up to regionals, Hurricane Sandy stood in the way of the Roadrunners’ preparations. Through the tough circumstances, all the participants maintained a practice regime prior to the meet, even running through last week’s nor’easter.

“It was tough to keep everyone focused when folks didn’t have lights or electricity,” Jackson said. “Sometimes sports and cross-country aren’t the most important thing.”

Paziora and Sewnig both felt that, despite a disappointing finish, the season as a whole was a success. Sewnig said the increase level of competition in the New Jersey Athletic Conference understated how well Ramapo performed. During the NJAC Championships, Ramapo’s top five men times averaged out at 26:20. Three years ago, Kyle Price won the conference for the Roadrunners with a 26:21 finish.

“This was probably the best team we’ve had, probably in school history, but the conference has gotten so much tougher over the year,” Sewnig said. “We were hoping to win, but it didn’t happen.”

While most athletes receive the luxury of an offseason to recuperate and regroup, many cross-country competitors will transition to track and field after only a week of rest.

“It’s definitely hard doing three seasons,” Sewnig said. “Your body just gets tired. If you’re passionate, dedicated and lucky enough to not get hurt, you can get through it.”

Although Paziora ran his last cross-country race as a Roadrunner, he noted that most of Ramapo’s top performers will return next season to push the program forward.

“It’s only going to get better from here,” he said.