NO CERTIFICATES, NO WORRIES: HAVERFORD MEN GAIN HIGHEST NCAA CROSS COUNTRY FINISH
Tom Donnelly doesn't mind that his Haverford cross country team didn't collect any Division III All-American certificates over the weekend. It's not that he has run out of room for them on his office walls in Ryan Gymnasium (he almost has), but that his self-styled "Honor Goats" brought back a much bigger prize from Whitetail Golf Course in Colfax, Wis.: an NCAA trophy.
Fords juniors Will McGuire and Grant Scott and sophomore Ian Ramsey-North raced home together within an eight-second span Saturday and led the Donnellymen to fourth-place, their highest team finish in 23 trips to Division III nationals and the highest ever by a Pennsylvania institution in the 32-year history of D-III cross country. A full-size, hardwood trophy that is presented to top four teams at all NCAA championships, made the flight back to campus to join the two such awards won by men's indoor track in 1991 and 1995.
Haverford's was also the top team from the East, and first among those from National Liberal Arts Colleges, placing behind only Calvin (Mich.), North Central (Ill.) and Wisconsin-La Crosse. McGuire (25:17.3), Scott (25:23.3) and Ramsey-North (25:25.3) narrowly missed Top 35 All-America recognition in overall places 36-40-43, but they were among the first 30 scorers in the 8K race due to the 13 entries that made All-America as individuals. All three Haverfordians will have at least five more chances to get their names on Donnelly's wall in indoor and outdoor track and next year's cross country nationals.
Seniors Bobby Cannon (25:50.2) and Brian Baillie (25:58.8), who both placed among the top 100 finishers, drew high praise from their coach, especially team captain and 2003 Division III All-American Cannon, "whose leadership was essential to the way the guys ran all year." Donnelly added, "Without Bobby, we couldn't have done what we did [at nationals]." Sophomore Zach Vaslow (25:55.2) and freshman Donald Letts (26:04.1) meanwhile gave even greater hope for the future, with Letts' finish in the top half of the 215-runner field the best by a Fords rookie since Karl Paranya placed 39th in 1993. Haverford's depth was proven by being the first of the 24 competing teams to get all seven runners across the finish line Saturday.
Entering 2004, the best previous finish by a Pennsylvania college was sixth by Carnegie Mellon in 1981, and the only higher finish by an NCAA Mideast Region team was third by Glassboro State in 1982, the same year Donnelly's charges earned their best previous finish (seventh). "Our expectation has always been to be among the top teams every year, but that usually meant Top 10," the thirtieth-year head coach says. "If we're to be a Top Four team every year, then that's a whole new level."
A whole new level might be needed in the Douglas B. Gardner Integrated Athletic Center to house all these NCAA trophies. Plus space in Tom's new office for All-American certificates.