Both Brandeis cross country teams took the top spots in the season-opening Wellesley College Invitational on Friday Sept. 1.

The women’s team, ranked 33rd in Division III, overwhelmed the competition on its way to victory over the Wellesley College and Regis College teams. The Judges nearly put together a perfect performance, as Brandeis runners individually took six of the top eight spots, including one through four. Emily Bryson ’19 led the way for all teams in the five-kilometer race with a time of 18 minutes and 31.8 seconds. This strong performance to begin the year augurs another exceptional season for Bryson, who put together back-to-back All-American campaigns in her first two years.  This earned her a spot as one of the team’s three captains this year. Finishing right on her heels was her sister, and fellow captain, Julia Bryson ’19, who also completed the race ahead of the 19-minute mark with a time of 18:58.8. Classmate Meaghan Barry ’19 placed third, going the distance in 19.32.7 and capping off an impressive run for the Brandeis Class of 2019.

In addition to the team’s established runners, Niamh Kenney ’21 and Natalie Iwaszkiewicz ’21 opened their Brandeis careers with top-ten finishes, with Kenney taking fourth place and Iwaszkiewicz coming in eighth. The team’s infusion of new talent will likely be an important narrative as the Judges go forward this season. The team features seven first-years, good for nearly half of the roster, in contrast to only two first-years a year ago. With Kenney and Iwaszkiewicz already making big contributions, along with Andrea Bolduc ’21, who finished 11th, this team’s mix of youth and experience may be what is needed to improve on last year’s unranked finish. With their third preseason ranking in four years and their second consecutive preseason rank of No. 33, the Judges return this season in a position to make serious noise.

The men’s cross country team also impressed over their competition at the Wellesley Invitational. The 32nd ranked Judges won the five-kilometer race over the Wentworth Institute of Technology and Regis College teams. The team accrued the most points despite holding out its top two runners and losing the top two spots of the race to the Wentworth Leopards. In large part this was due to the massive success of the team’s first-years. The Judges took the next nine places, led by first-years finishing third, fourth, fifth and ninth in the race. First-year Luke Ostrander ’21 paced the team in his collegiate debut with a time of 16:30.1 — good for third — while fellow first-year Mark Murdy ’21 (16:32.3), Josh Lombardo ’21 (16:36.0) and Harper Pollio-Barbee ’21 (17:06.2) finished fourth, fifth and ninth, respectively. Seniors Max Whitmore ’18 and Brian Shepard ’18 took sixth and seventh with times of 16:43.7 and 16:55.7, respectively. Dan Curley ‘20 rolled into the finish line at the 17:03.2 mark, placing eighth in the race for the Judges.

This team looks to build on last year’s unranked close to the campaign. The additions of top runners Ryan Stender ’18 and Mitchell Hutton ’18, who both took home All-New England honors last season, back into the mix along with these talented newcomers bodes well for the Judges’ chances this season. As the team received a preseason ranking for the first time since 2011, coaches around the National Collegiate Athletic Association recognize that this team has a chance to be different.

Both Brandeis teams return to action next Saturday, Sept. 16, at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Invitational. This Invitational marks the first big challenge of the season, as a large number of teams flock to the UMass-Dartmouth campus to compete. Despite these daunting figures, both Brandeis teams have had a tremendous amount of success at this particular event These impressive runners will now look to repeat their success this season.