Date: Friday, September 28, 2001
Written by Michael Douglas and Elliott Wiley, Jr.


MEDFORD -- Seniors J.R. Cruz (Centereach, NY/Centereach) and Ben Smith (Noank, CT/Fitch) have been named the 2001 co-captains for the Tufts University Men's Cross Country team. The team looks to build on last year's impressive season, in which they qualified for their fourth NCAA Championship Race in five years and placed 11th in the nation.

A four-year varsity member, Cruz looks to lead the team and build on his breakout junior season. Constantly running with captain Dave Patterson for the team's best time, he placed in the top-five at all five regular-season meets last season. His season highlight came when he won the ECAC Championships in Grafton with a time of 26:10.10. He finished 72nd at the NCAA Championship Race in Spokane, Washington, with a 26:14.5 time. In his only race so far this season, Cruz placed fourth overall (25:07.42) at the UMass-Dartmouth Invitational on September 15th.

Another four-year varsity member, Smith has been scoring points for the team since freshman year, becoming a constant in the team's top five. Last season, Smith finished most races right behind Patterson and Cruz. He placed 18th at the NESCAC Championship in Amherst with a time of 27:14. Smith was 96th at the NCAA Championship Race, finishing in 26:24.5. At the UMass-Dartmouth Invitational, he placed eighth (25:21.94) finishing just two seconds behind Springfield's Bob Mateicka.

Cruz and Smith are poised to lead the Jumbos to their fourth consecutive trip to Nationals. Even though placing 11th in last season's NCAA's was an excellent achievement, the team was not satisfied. With this in mind, head coach Connie Putnam constructed a new strategy this year, alternating runners every race in hopes to improve times later in the season. With Cruz and Smith running they finished 2nd out of 26 teams at UMass-Dartmouth, proving these captains provide the finishing touch to make the Jumbos one of the best teams in the country.