The Lafayette men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Bethlehem last weekend and earned their highest placements in the Patriot League Championship in over 20 years.
Out of the nine teams that competed, the men’s team took third place overall and the women’s team took fourth overall with scores of 73 and 123, respectively. The fourth-place finish for the women’s team is the highest since 1997, while the third-place finish on the men’s side is their highest since 1998.
On the men’s side, senior Ryan Branch took sixth place out of 64 runners with a final time of 22:03.7, which is the highest placement in Lafayette team history at the championship meet. Branch narrowly beat the former record of seventh place made by Alex Wechsler in 2007. Another Leopard to finish in the top ten was sophomore Bobby Oehrlein, who came in tenth with a time of 22:16.4.
“I just think it speaks to the program as a whole and to the fact that we have five guys in the top 20 of the league, it just speaks volumes to what we’ve all been doing,” Branch said. “My performance wasn’t just a reflection of myself, but it was really a reflection of everybody, our whole team, and our team culture.”
Branch and Oehrlein earned spots on the First and Second All-League teams, respectively, for their performance at the championship meet.
On the women’s side, senior Ainsley Jacobs led the way for the Leopards with an eighth place finish, out of 70 runners, with a time of 20:16.1. The eighth-place finish is the second best in Lafayette team history, just behind Sarah Welsh-Huggins who finished fourth in 2011.
The spring cross country season is over almost as soon as it started, as the Leopards had just one meet before the Patriot League Championship. It was a quick start and an abrupt end to a spring season that took place primarily in February.
“We got here early, but there was an outbreak on campus. We were here for two or three weeks and couldn’t practice, which was really challenging,” Jacobs said. “The snow was another challenge we faced, but we made the best of it in unconventional ways, whether it be trekking out to the track in snow boots or doing workouts in neighborhoods because the roads are the only thing clear.”
“It was good to see everything come together despite all of the challenges leading up to the race,” she added.