Freshmen lead the way as cross country shines in Purple Valley Classic

Megan McCandless ’20 claims first place in her first appearance for MIT

The MIT men’s and women’s cross country (XC) teams got off to good starts last weekend in the Purple Valley Classic at Williams College. Competing against many of the top teams in the country, the women finished in second place overall  while the men finished in third.

In cross country, the men compete in an 8k race while the women run a 5k or 6k race.  The top five runners from each team score and their places are summed up. The team with the lowest total score wins.

A strong recruited class of freshmen gave MIT one of the best squads in the country, as both the women’s and men’s teams are ranked in the top 6 nationally.  

On the women’s team, Megan McCandless ’20 finished first overall at the Purple Valley Classic. The promising freshman from Livermore, CA has the potential to be one of the top runners in program history.  

Fellow freshmen Jenna Melanson ’20 and Katie Bacher ’20 joined McCandless in the Engineer’s top five, along with Leandra Zimmerman ’19 and junior Mary Eccles ’18. MIT also has in its ranks two All-American runners, Christina Wicker ’17 and Maryann Gong ’17, who were out injured this past meet.

“I really want to be a part of the team that goes to nationals this year,” said Melanson. “I want to contribute to the program in a valuable way, and helping us earn another trophy at nationals would be a really cool way to do that.”

In terms of balancing the rigors of being a student-athlete, Melanson is excelling so far.

“Throughout my senior year of high school, I had a lot of people tell me that trying to be an MIT student and an athlete at the same time would be extremely stressful and lead to a bad college experience. Obviously it’s still early in the semester, but so far I feel that XC has made MIT easier. Having a team to support you and help you learn how things work is so nice. Plus, practice is like a forced study break. When I get really frustrated on a pset I can just leave it and come back to it after I run.”

On the men’s side, the top performance of the weekend came from Josh Derrick ’20. Derrick finished eighth overall and was joined by Steven Goldy ’20, Dennis Maloney ’19, Colin Godwin ’17, and Matt Deyo ’17 in the Engineer’s top five.

Derrick, who jokingly says he came to MIT because he “was scared of saying no to Coach [Halston] Taylor,” ran the fourth fastest time ever by an MIT athlete on the course.  In the process, Derrick accomplished his season goal, which was to “beat Dennis Maloney in one race.”

“My favorite part of XC is how it develops a bond, trust, and respect between your teammates who are all busting their asses toward the same goal,” says Rory Beyer ’17, who is a captain. “It makes you tough, and makes you closer to those on your team through the joint struggle.”

“I like XC because it allows you to test yourself and pushes you to new limits that you had no idea you could achieve,” sais Daniel Weiss ’18. “All the while, you’re doing it with a group of amazing, like-minded people. It’s simply a lot of fun when you get past the pain.”  

The Engineers will look to build on the strong start to the season at the NEICAA Championships at Franklin Park on October 8th.