Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 7
At the NCAAs
Michael Scarlett '18
Stockton Photo, Inc.
Michael Scarlett remembers exactly what he told his father after he visited
the Vassar campus for the first time. Scarlett, a track and cross country
star at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, had just spent about 24 hours
with members of the Vassar cross country team during a recruiting trip.
"When I got home, I said to my dad, 'I hope I get into Vassar,'" he recalls.
"It was everything I'd hoped for in terms of the culture of the team-people
who liked to have fun but who were serious about competing and who
This fall-five years later-Scarlett capped his collegiate cross country career by competing
in the NCAA Division III Championships at Principia College in Elsah, IL. He was the first
Vassar runner since 2006 to earn a spot in the NCAA championship race, finishing 159th in
a field of 279. And while qualifying for the race may have been an individual achievement,
Vassar's team-oriented culture was plainly evident: Four of Scarlett's teammates took the
16-hour road trip, surprising Scarlett by showing up an hour before the race. They helped
him warm up and cheered him on along the eight-kilometer (4.97-mile) route. "It was
amazing to see my teammates there, to have that support during the race," Scarlett says.
"The course was set up for spectators, so everywhere I went, I'd see Vassar people as I ran."
Head coach James McCowan '99, an All-American cross country runner himself, says he
wasn't at all surprised that Scarlett was competing in the national championships or that some
of his teammates had shown up to support him. Scarlett and his teammates from the class of
2018 have advanced Vassar's cross country program significantly since they joined the team,
McCowan says. "They all bought into the
vision we had for the program, not just from
an individual perspective but as teammates
who were interested in the collective outcome."
The team's progress was easily measured.
In Scarlett's first year, Vassar had one of its
poorest showings in the NCAA Atlantic
Region race, which determines which
runners qualify for the national championships. In 2017, the team finished eigth in a
42-team field, its best showing in history.
Scarlett began preparing for his final
season when he and Schatz landed summer
jobs in Washington, DC, and decided to train
together. Scarlett, an urban studies and
political science major, was an intern in the
office of Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
"We put in a serious volume of work in the
heat and humidity, running along the
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal," he says.
When Scarlett returned to campus later
that summer, he and Coach McCowan began
to seriously talk about competing in the
NCAA championship. The coach says Scarlett
continued to work hard throughout the
season, and he was consistently the team's
top finisher. "It was satisfying to see all that
work pay off," the coach says.
Scarlett aimed to stay near the front of
the pack early in the race, and he was only
a few seconds behind a pace to qualify for
All-American (the top 40 finishers) midway
through the course. But gale-force winds and
some tight turns pushed him farther back in
the second half of the race. While he was disappointed with his finish, Scarlett says it still
meant a lot to be there representing Vassar.
He is looking forward to capping his
Vassar athletics career with the track team,
but he says his time on the cross country
team was something special. "I can't imagine
my Vassar experience without cross country,"
he says. "I'm better off in every way by being
a part of that team. We pushed each other
every day, and competing in the NCAAs was
a gratifying end to the season."
VA S S A r Q U A r T E r LY