Oberlin Men’s Cross Country Sweeps NCAC Championships


Photo Courtesy of Levi Rex

The men’s cross country team poses at the NCAC Championships.

On Saturday, Oct. 29 the Yeomen placed first in the North Coast Athletic Conference Championship at The College of Wooster, the highest score in the program’s history. The team previously placed second in 1990 and 1994. Together, the entire cross country team cultivated enthusiasm, Obie spirit, and community that allowed them to clinch the title.

The Wooster cross country course is notorious for its grueling environment and lengthy hills, but this challenge did not prevent the men’s team from crushing each expectation set on the eight-kilometer course.

“The hills at Wooster’s course were brutal, especially the final half-mile incline,” second-year Walter Moak said, a sentiment echoed by many of the runners. “[We] had to establish our position earlier in the race.”

Head Track and Field and Cross Country Coach Ray Appenheimer, who has been at Oberlin for 19 years, was incredibly proud of his standout athletes, especially the fourth-years. Captains Chase Sortor and Sam Russ set an early pace and provided confidence. Niels Vanderloo and Matt Walton ran lifetime personal bests, and Ross D’Orfani finished eighth, earning his third career all-conference award. Moak, who placed ninth, improved 32 places from last year’s NCAC Championship and kept the team in the lead, while second-year Jonah Barber finished in the top five out of Oberlin runners despite some race-day challenges.
Appenheimer described how the victory was a team effort and explained how the coaching staff and team will use this accomplishment to propel their future seasons.

“[It was] not just the five runners who scored, not just the 12 who ran,” he said. “It was everyone … determined to celebrate every moment of the race and every moment of that day.”

Cross country is often viewed as an individual sport, but this could not be further from the truth, as the team relied on each other for support and motivation. Russ and Sortor greatly contributed to the win by encouraging positivity and a strong team mindset. Russ ran relentlessly and fearlessly but also focused on having fun.

“Contributing to the team victory on Saturday is the highlight of my running career,” Russ said. “We viewed the race as a celebration of all our hard work and our love for one another.”

Sortor also motivated his teammates to draw strength from one another.

“[My teammates] are some of my biggest inspirations and continually push me to be a better athlete and leader,” he said.
Before the race, he was shaking with nerves because of the daunting course but Barber still managed to run enthusiastically and thanked his teammates for helping him.

“[I] contributed solely by feeding off my teammates ahead of me, behind me, and around me,” he said.

After the races concluded, Coach Appenheimer, Associate Head Cross Country Coach Izzy Alexander, and Volunteer Assistant Coach Anna Scott, OC ’22, were named the NCAC Coaching Staff of the Year for the men’s division. Together, the three coaches pushed each athlete to reach their maximum potential and ultimately, victory. Despite the conclusion of the season, the entire cross country team will continue to train, practice, and compete especially in preparation for the winter track and field season.

“Let’s not spend time talking about successes, let’s attend to the things that make us successful — our effort, our attitude, our belief in ourselves and the people around us,” Appenheimer said. “If we do that, then our success is all but assured.”