Bobcat men earns third place at cross country nationals
Two Paul Smith’s runners earn All-American honors
PAUL SMITHS — The Paul Smith’s College cross country teams returned from the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national cross country championships in Uniontown, Pennsylvania this past weekend with the men’s squad placing third overall and the women’s team earning a fifth-place finish.
The SUNY-ESF Mighty Oaks swept both the men’s and women’s race on Sunday morning. SUNY-ESF’s men’s squad won the event with 25 points, followed by Johnson and Wales with 46 points for second place and the Bobcats in third with 85 points. The third-place team finish matched the program’s best team finish at USCAA Nationals since 2010.
The Mighty Oaks won the women’s team title with 23 points, while Johnson and Wales was second with 88 points and Christendom College was third with 92 points. Both Word of Life and Paul Smith’s tied with 95 points, but due to a tiebreaker, Word of Life finished fourth while the Bobcats placed fifth.
Eliot Soderholm of Reston, Virginia paced the Paul Smith’s men’s team with a third-place finish in 28 minutes, 56 seconds to earn first-team USCAA All-American honors. The Bobcat’s Ethan Parrish of Adamant, Vermont placed 15th in 30:45, followed by Tyler Kirschbaum of Webster in 17th in a time of 31:07. This trio of first-year runners has led Paul Smith’s throughout the season.
Wes Burkit of Bath, Pennsylvania, placed 30th overall in 32:35 and Ryan Chiari of Braintree, Massachusetts was 32nd in 32:53 to round out the scoring five Bobcats.
On the women’s side, Lilly Rother of Lake Placid paced the squad with an eighth-place finish in 26:22, which earned her second-team USCAA All-American honors. Team captain Ellen Haas of Red Creek finished in 16th place in 27:12 and freshman Joanna Kerchner of Reading, Pennsylvania placed 26th in 28:33.
Due to religious tenets, Brooklynn Shumway of Bloomingdale was given the opportunity to run the 6K course the prior afternoon, under the observation of the USCAA. While her time was recorded, it was agreed that her result would not impact the team scores. Shumway finished the course running solo in 29:34, with the cheering support of her entire team and a cast of spectators from Paul Smith’s who lined the course to support her run.
If Shumway’s time was entered into the overall scoring, Paul Smith’s would have placed second in the National Championship event with 82 points — the highest team finish ever for the Bobcats.
Senior Ellie Judice of Dayton, Maine finished in 39th place in 31:52 and Alexa Adams set a season-best in the 6K with a time of 37:38.
The cross-country courses at Penn State-Fayette were no doubt the hilliest the team has ever raced on collegiately, yet the training done at the Paul Smith’s College campus and through the VIC prepared the Bobcats for a challenging course at nationals. So, while finish times were slower than what the runners have enjoyed through the season on “flat” courses, the hilly course was something the Bobcats train on in preparation for the invitationals through the fall season.
Paul Smith’s head coach Jim Tucker was relieved and satisfied by how his runners had performed this season, especially toward the end of the year in the conference and the national championships.
Tucker said this past season has been among the most successful seasons in the program’s history. He is excited about the future of the team, considering both squads were led by first-year students, Soderholm and Rother.
Rother graduated from Lake Placid High School, having run on the cross country team for two seasons, and was the top cross-country runner from in Section VII in 2022, winning the girls individual Champlain Valley Athletic Conference title and the Section VII individual title.
“I’m guessing she had very little idea that this could happen through the season, and I didn’t bring the possibility to her attention until Friday evening while we were already in Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania,” Tucker said in a statement. “I knew she was fast and determined and a natural talent this past spring, but running is not a primary focal point in her life. I didn’t want to provide additional pressure on her and let her enjoy the season and experience as a first-year student.”
Soderholm graduated from South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, where he was merely one runner among many who excelled on his team. The Paul Smith’s coaches have worked hard this season to keep him injury-free and to change his approach to training for the long term so he can continue to stay healthy and ramp up his mileage and intensity.
Following the cross country season, many of the Bobcats runners will convert to snowshoe training and racing through the long winter season. Snowshoe training provides strength training, keeps the runners outdoors in the elements and provides plenty of environmental and physical challenges, according to Tucker.