Led by Jones (2nd place), No. 24 men's cross country takes 6th place at NCAA Regionals

James Jones' second-place finish overall led Bates men's cross country to sixth place at NCAA Regionals on Nov. 10, 2018. (Courtesy of Tom Leonard '78) 

BRUNSWICK, Maine -- Bates junior James Jones grabbed second place overall among 416 runners to lead the No. 24 nationally ranked Bobcats to sixth place among 58 teams Saturday at the NCAA New England Regional Championships at Bowdoin.

With 161 points, Bates was one point shy of fifth-place Tufts and 32 points ahead of seventh-place Bowdoin (193). The Bobcats hope to earn their first at-large team invitation since 2013 to next Saturday's NCAA Division III Championships, to be held in Winneconne, Wis., with the field to be announced Sunday morning by the NCAA selection committee. The Bobcats compete in the largest and most competitive of the eight Division III regions around the country.

"It was a great day for us today," said head coach Al Fereshetian. "Our finish this year is 54 points better than our fifth-place (finish) last year and will put us in contention for a national berth."

Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.) covered the 8-kilometer course in 24:56.88, less than a second behind Plymouth State senior Sam Brunnette (24:55.97) for first place in New England. It is Jones' second career All-New England honor for top-35 finishes. "James Jones was exceptional, clearly the best race of his collegiate career," said Fereshetian. "He nearly won the meet and was leading up through the last 50 yards."

First-year Bart Rust (Croton on Hudson, N.Y.) and junior Justin Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) joined Jones on the All-New England team by placing 27th (25:48.98) and 35th (25:58.13), respectively. Sophomore Tucker Barber (Wilton, Maine) and senior Henry Colt (Whatley, Mass.) were 48th (26:11.22) and 49th (26:11.29), respectively, giving Bates five scorers all inside the top 50. Colt finished ahead of all but two other teams' No. 5 runners (first-place Amherst and second-place Williams).

"Bart Rust had a tremendous race and a great bounce-back from the NESCAC Championships to earn All Region," Fereshetian recounted. "Justin Levine had another very solid effort earning his first All Region award. Tucker
Barber had the best race of his collegiate career and Henry Colt closed things out for us right with Tucker."

Senior Nico Johnson (Frederick, Md.) and Mark Fusco (Cheshire, Conn.) were Bates' displacers in 67th (26:32.87) and 70th (26:35.20), respectively.

The top two teams in the eight NCAA regional championships automatically go on to compete at NCAAs, and there are 16 at-large teams also selected to compete. Bates earned its fourth-ever team berth into the national championship in 2016 after also placing fifth, but missed selection last year with another fifth-place showing at Regionals.

Jones is guaranteed at least an individual invitation to the national meet.

Hosted by Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the NCAA Division III Men's Cross Country Championship race starts at 12:15pm Central time at Lake Breeze Golf Club in Winneconne, Wis.

"All in all this meet showed the resilience of this team," said Fereshetian. "A couple of guys who had great races at NESCAC were off just a bit, but then others stepped up and filled the gaps. That is what a good team does. Hopefully we get one more chance to try to put it all together and if we get that chance, I know that this team will be ready to go!"