By Trevor Wenners
Athletic Communications Assistant
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – For senior Tate Knight of the Wesleyan University men's cross country team, the NESCAC Championship is always a fun experience.
"I always look forward to important meets, like the NESCAC Championship, as higher-intensity races tend to separate those who have or have not prepared properly for the last five months," he said. "There will be a lot of talent and a lot of heart on the starting line Saturday, and I have no doubt that each team's runners will bring their all."
The Cardinals will hit the 8-kilometer course at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine, starting at noon on Saturday.
The 11 conference squads will be allowed to race 15 runners and the top-five finishers for each team factor into the final scores. The Cardinals' 15-player lineup will consist of seniors Connor Cobb, John Henry Vansant and Knight, juniors Shota Nakamura and Frank Tucci, sophomores William Bajohr, Noah Langat, Adam Linsky, Kevin McMorrow, Conner Sexton and Grant van Inwegen, and freshmen Benjamin Cahill, Tommy Doyle, Matt Frishkoff and Nathan Gamble.
The Cardinals placed 10th overall in the 2016 NESCAC Championship with Knight finishing 26th on the individual side, as Williams finished first with 83 points. The Cardinals grabbed sixth-place recognition out of 11 teams during the 2015 conference meet.
"There will be opponents ahead of us that we have got our eyes locked onto, but we also know that our backs have the same target," Knight said. "It is difficult to set a concrete goal with a big race like this, but I think that if we race smart and up to our ability, we have got a good shot of bringing down teams that were out of reach earlier in the season."
Earlier this season, Knight grabbed first-place honors, as the Cardinals grabbed the top-seven individual slots during a commanding victory over Post at the Wesleyan Invitational in Middletown, Conn., on Sept. 15. Rounding out the top-five finishers for Wesleyan was Sexton, van Inwegen, Nakamura and junior Josh Signore.
Knight also was the Cardinals' top-performer during the Men's Brown race at the Paul Short Run (Sept. 29) and Little Three Championship (Oct. 14). He finished seventh overall out of 72 runners at the Little Three meet.
Knight has become a true leader for the Cardinals during his senior campaign, as he has motivated teammates and tried to instill them with knowledge.
"As an underclassmen, I was most comfortable having upperclassmen symphonize the team dynamic, and placing the majority of my efforts into my individual training," Knight recalled. "Now, as one of three senior leaders, I have faced the challenge of balancing the team's persistence and my own training. This responsibility has really solidified the respect I hold for my teammates and my dedication to this program. I have always looked up to the older guys on the Wesleyan men's cross country team. They all offered unique perspectives on running and life, and really helped integrate me into the team. Now, I hope to play that role for the younger guys of the program."
McMorrow was the team's second-place performer at the Paul Short Run, and Bajohr was the third Cardinal to cross the finish line at the Paul Short Run and Little Three Championship (27th overall). Nakamura (29th overall) and Linsky (39th) performed well at the Little Three meet, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Wesleyan lineup.
Cahill made his collegiate debut at the Wesleyan Invitational, finishing seventh overall with a time of 22:37.37, while Langat (22:49.60), Tucci (23:01.91), Doyle (23:20.18), Frishkoff (23:43.13) and Gamble (23:46.95) all registered strong performances during the season-opening triumph.
Wesleyan has quite a bit of experience on the conference stage, as Knight, McMorrow, Cobb, Bajohr, Sexton, Nakamura, Vansant, Linsky and van Inwegen all competed at the 2016 NESCAC Championship.
"The NESCAC Championship is definitely a race that our team builds to all season," Knight said. "Our summer training establishes a high-mileage base, early fall incorporates longer endurance-based workouts, and now, late fall, we focus on tuning up our legs with shorter mileage and quicker workouts. Collectively, the team has put in a lot of work into our season, and we are now looking to capitalize on our efforts this weekend."