The Brandeis men's and women’s cross country team had a strong performance for its two most recent outings: Oct. 15 at Connecticut College and Oct. 8 at James Earley Invitational in Westfield, Mass. At Connecticut College, the Judges took fifth place out of twenty teams, with the men’s Ryan Stender ’18 finishing third overall with an 8K time of 24:48.6, and women’s Emily Bryson ’19 finishing second, with a 6K time of 21:40.0. The previous weekend in Westfield, the Judges raced tremendously, finishing first overall out of 41 teams, with men finishing first and women in fourth. The past two weeks have been exciting, especially with the impressive performances of top runners Bryson and Stender. Due to his recent success, Stender received University Athletics Association Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week award, an honorable recognition of his dominance.

On Saturday, Oct. 15 at Connecticut College, the Judges ran a solid race despite the talent of the competition. Led by Stender, the men’s squad ran impressively, with Stender finishing third overall, and those who followed behind him running fast as well. Brandeis’ top four runners, Stender, Mitchell Hutton ’18, Liam Garvey ’18 and Quinton Hoey ’17 managed to race quite well, finishing third, 14th, 19th and 30th respectively. Tufts University’s men finished fourth overall, but their top four scored higher than Brandeis.

For the women’s 6K, the day played out similar to the men’s. The Judges top finisher, Emily Bryson, ran an impressive race, finishing second overall. Additionally, 19th place Julia Bryson ‘19 also managed to finish well with a time of 22:30.8. Unfortunately, the rest of the squad could not keep up with the Bryson sisters, and Brandeis’ next finishers were 44th, 46th, 86th, 97th and 104th. The women also finished fifth, behind Tufts, whose women squad finished first.

Despite not winning the race, Brandeis had a solid overall performance, as they still managed to finish ahead of 15 other teams.

The week before, at the James Earley invitational, Brandeis’ two teams had jaw-dropping performances as the men took home first place and the women, fourth,

helping Brandeis come in first place overall. Stender performed very well, finishing second at 25:19.61, and as Brandeis was racing with their best team all season, they managed to finish with four runners in the top fifteen and their fifth best in the top 33. They crushed all other teams with a score of 68, beating second place Tufts by a huge margin of 40. The victory should definitely be attributed to Stender’s strong return, as this was his first meet back after battling injury earlier on in the season. Stender alone, could not have won the entire race. He needed contribution from Hutton and Hoey, who finished sixth at 25:43.54 and 12th at 25:59.09, respectively, also had a huge impact in the team’s success.

The women also had an impressive meet, considering that only five of them, all of whom are sophomores, competed that day. 41 teams raced in the women’s 5K race, and the Judges still managed to take home fourth place, led by Bryson sisters, who both finished in the top ten, Emily Bryson in a time of 21:49.07 for second place and Julia Bryson with a time of 22:29.69 in a ninth place finish. In third place for Brandeis, also with a strong race, was Meaghan Barry ’19, who finished with a time of 23:44.89 in 44th place.

With just five competing women’s runners, the Judges as one team were still able to win the meet, beating 40 other extremely talented groups. Stender’s strong return showed his ability to continue to race like his quick self after the injury, and his teammates also ran some of their fastest races yet.  The group showed that, when at full capacity, Brandeis is ready to win.

Overall, the past two weeks have been exciting for men’s and women’s cross country. They have only finished in the top five or better, with two first place finishes and two in fifth place so far. It will be important from here on out, if Brandeis wants to contend for a championship, to identify the factors led to their immense success at the James Earley invitational as well as understand and improve upon that which caused their relatively less dominant performance at the Connecticut College Invitational.