By Sean Callahan, Editor-in-Chief
Originally Published October 31, 2023
Cross Country is a team sport in which success is achieved through the efforts of many individuals. While one runner may reach first place, that means little for the entire team if their teammates place far behind runners of other teams. Saint Vincent College’s (SVC) Men’s Cross Country Team has not earned another PAC championship win since 2019. But on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m, at Thiel College, the male Bearcats came together to win their ninth team title in the PAC against nine other teams.
The team scores were determined by adding the placements of the top five finishers of each team. According to the PAC website, out of the 114 runners who took part in the 8K—a race of about five miles—the Bearcats won by gaining placements of third, seventh, 13th, 16th, and 17th, for a combined score of 56, and first place as a team.
The Bearcats exceeded team runner-up W&J by 15 points. Although W&J ran a competitive race, gaining second, fourth, and 11th place, their team’s fourth and fifth scorers could not outrun the Bearcats’ third through fifth scorers.
Additionally, although Kevin Arseneaux of Geneva College won the individual championship, covering the course in 25:52, Geneva's second scorer only gained 18th place, followed by 23rd, 26th, 34th, equaling a combined score of 102, for a team placement of fifth.
Following the conclusion of the race, Kevin Wanichko, Head Coach of Cross Country and Track and Field, was voted the PAC Men's Cross-Country Coach of the Year.
Wanichko is proud of the team, even beyond the five runners who scored. He felt the journey to the win truly started last year, when the team fell short in the PAC Championship.
“We were preseason number one, picked to win. But then we had a rough day last year and got fourth,” Wanichko said.
Wanichko feels last year’s result gave the team extra motivation to come back and win the PAC this year. But he also attributes this year’s success to multiple aspects of the team and its culture.
“It starts with the leadership on our team. We had three great captains to lead our program,” Wanichko said. “But even outside of them, it funnels down to the rest of the group, doing what they need to and being committed to the group.”
Timothy Patterson, senior criminology major, placed third overall in the race, with a time of 26:10, as the Bearcat’s first scorer and leading runner. He earned First Team All-PAC following the conclusion of the race.
Patterson is grateful for the efforts of his fellow players and coaches, including Wanichko. He described feeling grateful that the team’s efforts paid off this year, and that they won the PAC.
“This is one of the best teams in SVC [Cross Country] history, so we knew we could win it if we all performed. The top ten has included many of our runners throughout the season as everyone continued to improve,” Patterson said. “Our team was able to run together from the start and keep our lead the whole time.”
Ethan Wymer, junior placed seventh overall as the Bearcats’ second scorer in a time of 26:30. Like Patterson, Wymer also gained All-PAC First Team for his performance.
Brady Sundin, sophomore health science major, previously declared PAC Newcomer of the Year, placed 13th overall as the Bearcat’s 3rd fastest finisher, with a time of 26:49, earning him All-PAC Second Team.
Regarding last year’s PAC championship, Sundin described a sentiment similar to Wanichko’s, saying, “it hurt very badly when we finished fourth, but this only gave us more fuel to get it done the following year.” He emphasized the training of his fellow teammates and their individual accountability as contributing factors to this year’s success.
“If the foundation of miles is not there over the summer, then when it comes time to really compete in the fall it is hard to play catch up, but we did well in that regard. It feels amazing for us to pull off a PAC title this year,” Sundin said.
While Sundin is grateful for the recognition as PAC Newcomer of the Year, it is not about the accolades for him. He hopes he has made a positive impact on his team and its culture, and wishes to continue improving his personal bests, to benefit his team in as they move forward.
Aiden Jackson and John Syms, both juniors, placed 16th (27:00) and 17th (27:03) respectively, as the Bearcats’ final two scorers. They both earned PAC Honorable Mention.
Next up for the Bearcats is postseason competition at the Regional Championships, where the Bearcats have expressed personal goals. Sundin wishes to run under 26 minutes, while Patterson wishes to make the top five players overall. Wanichko has high hopes for the team.
“Our goal from the beginning of the season has been to get better every week. [We want to] peak at the time time and get our best foot out there,” Wanichko said. “I’d really like to see us at top ten in the region…go out and have the best day we can have.”
The Bearcats will compete at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. at Lock Haven University. Following this will be the NCAA National Championship at 11 a.m at Carlisle, PA.