The men’s cross country team provided the highlight of the fall season when it brought an Ivy title to Morningside Heights, though the Lions were unable to excel on the national stage.
The Light Blue won the Ivy Heptagonal Cross Country Championship on Nov. 2, marking its first Ancient Eight title since 2009 and fourth ever. Defeating No. 15 Princeton and No. 21 Harvard vaulted Columbia to No. 8 in the national rankings, which tied a program high reached earlier in the season.
The Lions had three runners in the top five finishers—senior Nicolas Composto came in second, senior John Gregorek came in fourth, and junior Daniel Everett came in fifth. All three earned first-team All-Ivy honors for their efforts. Composto’s time of 23:44.5 was not only a personal best, but also the fastest championship 8k in Columbia history.
“Every year Princeton always seems to beat us at Heps, but today was our day,” Composto said in a team statement in November. “We were determined to run as hard as we could and we just really wanted to win the championship today.”
Three more Columbia runners finished in the top 25 to help power the Light Blue to its victory. Senior Jacob Sienko came in 17th, first-year Jack Boyle came in 20th, and sophomore Ben Golestan came in 21st.
The Light Blue continued to meet high expectations at NCAA Regionals, where the No. 8 team took second place, and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Cross Country National Championships.
“We had high expectations for these kids. They’ve been performing well all year,” head coach Willy Wood said after the meet. “I thought it went remarkably well.”
Sienko led the Lions at Regionals, finishing the 10k race in sixth place individually with a time of 30:24. Everett and Composto joined him in the top 10, taking ninth and 10th place, respectively. Gregorek and senior Joseph Kotran also finished in the top 30 of the 250-plus runner field to round out Columbia’s top five.
“I think a lot of it stems from the fact that they’re really good friends,” Wood said of the team’s success. “We work really hard, but we have a lot of fun. There’s a lot of mutual respect for one another. It’s kids who really want to be here, who believe in what we’re doing.”
But the Light Blue’s winning ways came to a halt with a disappointing showing at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23. Composto led the men’s team, finishing 30th individually in the men’s 10k with a time of 30:37.8 to earn All-American distinction, but no other Lions finished within the top 120. Sienko came in 121st at 31:28.4, first-year Jack Boyle 171st at 31:59.6, Gregorek 190th at 32:11.0, and Kotran 196th at 32:14.7.
The Lions finished in 25th, one place behind Dartmouth, while Princeton came in 22nd to lead the Ancient Eight competitors. Harvard also made it to the leaderboard, finishing in 30th.