Men's cross country takes 5th at New Englands, awaits NCAA invite

Bart Rust and the Bates men's cross country team placed its top five runners all inside the top 50 individuals, en route to fifth place out of 54 teams on Nov. 16, 2019 at the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championships at Bowdoin. (Courtesy of Tom Leonard '78)

BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The No. 28 nationally ranked Bates men's cross country team placed its top five runners all inside the top 50 individuals, en route to fifth place out of 54 teams Saturday at the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championships at Bowdoin.

Bates' performance will likely earn a return trip to next Saturday's NCAA Division III Championships -- the Bobcats were at-large selection last year after finishing sixth at NCAA Regionals. The field for nationals will be announced on Sunday.

Bates scored 167 points, beating No. 21 Middlebury by 21 points for fifth place. Only No. 2 Williams (24), No. 24 Colby (93), No. 12 MIT (107) and No. 17 Amherst (137) outscored the Bobcats.

Sophomore Bart Rust (Croton on Hudson, N.Y.) and senior Justin Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) won All-New England (top 35) honors for the second straight year to lead the Bobcats. Rust placed 17th among 384 runners, covering the 8-kilometer course at Bowdoin in 25:22.5. Levine followed in 28th place (25:36.7).

First-year Eli Boesch-Dining (Concord, N.H.) and sophomore Henry Raff (Hailey, Idaho) were the first two runners outside the All-New England 35. Boesch-Dining was 36th overall and the sixth rookie to cross the finish line in 25:50.6, while Raff placed 37th in 25:52.1 in the best race of his career thus far.

Junior Ryan Nealis (London, England) took 50th (26:08.2) to complete Bates' team scoring, giving the Bobcats five among the top 50 finishers at NCAA Regionals for the second straight year.

The Bobcats' displacers were junior Tucker Barber (Wilton, Maine) in 53rd (26:09.7), and sophomore Nic Stathos (Wellesley, Mass.) in 109th (26:52.6).

While only the top two teams in each of the eight regions are guaranteed team bids to nationals, Bates seems well-positioned to make the seventh team trip to nationals in program history. The Bates women are also expected to be invited, after their fourth-place finish on Saturday.

The 2019 NCAA Division III Championships will take place at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., next Saturday. The men's race begins at 10:45am Eastern Time, followed by the women's race at 11:45am.