The men’s and women’s cross-country teams had an excellent playoff season, topped off by historic results in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship. The women’s team finished in first place, claiming their sixth NCAA Championship trophy. The men finished in fifth place, the best NCAA tournament finish in program history. The races took place in Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The top finisher for the women was senior Samantha Levy. She finished in 17th place with a time of 21:50.1. This is the highest she has ever finished at this event.
Levy commented on her mindset entering her last college cross-country race.
“As a team, there is always a certain amount of pressure we feel at any race, and that holds even more so for nationals competitions,” she said. “In years past, I have personally put that pressure or felt that pressure in negative ways which has led to subpar performances, and this year I was not going to let that happen again, for myself or for my team.
“My mindset was pretty simple; it was that whatever was going to happen would happen and that I wanted to race happy, race with my teammates, give whatever I had and love my sport in the last race I would run collegiately on a cross-country course.”
As a team, the Blue Jays had three runners finish in the top 25 spots. No other team had that many top finishers. Senior Rebecca Grusby finished in 21st with a time of 21:55.7, and junior Ariel Keklak finished in 23rd with a time of 21:59.4. To finish out the Blue Jays’ top five, senior Kristen Meek finished in 41st in 22:14.9, and freshman Katharine Priu finished 76th with a time of 22:39.7.
This top five gave Hopkins 125 total points. Hopkins finished ahead of second-place Washington University, who beat the Blue Jays in last year’s NCAA Championship by only one point. Hopkins had enacted its revenge and it took the entire team to achieve it.
Levy spoke about her team’s success.
“It is half relief and half pure ecstatic energy,” she said. “We have all been training together, and we were all ready and primed to run phenomenal races at the Big Dance. The strides each of us have taken throughout the season are amazing, and I am so proud of each and every one of them. I would bet they all feel the same.”
While the men did not place first, they still hit historic milestones for the program. Fifth place is the highest place that the men’s team has earned at the NCAA Championship. The team was led by junior Jared Pangallozzi, who finished in fourth place out of all 280 runners with a time of 24:31.7. Pangallozzi has had an incredible year, winning Centennial Conference Runner of the Year earlier in November. His fourth-place finish was a strong addition to his already impressive resume.
Junior Declan Hines also finished in the top 50, placing 43rd with a time of 25:02.0. The three other top five Hopkins finishers were junior Conner Delahanty in 63rd, sophomore Sean Laidlaw in 67th and junior Patrick Dye in 81st. Together, these runners scored 208 points for the Blue Jays, placing them just 15 points behind fourth-place Washington University. Pomona-Pitzer Colleges finished in first place with 164 points.
These two races were true successes for both the men’s and women’s team. For Levy, it was a great way to finish her cross-country career.
“Cross country has been such a life-shaping sport for me, not just in college but since middle school, and it is really hard to see it finish. Being a part of the Hopkins cross-country team has meant being a part of a group of women who are dedicated, hardworking, inspiring, motivating and, above all else, put everything out there for each other. “
As she reflects on her career, Levy is grateful to her teammates past and present for making her cross country experience so meaningful.
“It has been a true honor and privilege to get to run with these girls each year that I have been here, and I’m going to miss cross country so very much. Cross country is special in that it brings out the most gritty, gross, hard-core parts of yourself, and you get to know your teammates so well because of it.,” she said. “It’s amazing. I’m surrounded by some pretty phenomenal people, and I only hope to find something even somewhat similar after I graduate. This team will always hold an extra-special place in my heart.”