Rakoc, Saints Look for Spot in NCAA Championship
Nov.7: St. Lawrence University's men's cross country team would like to earn its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Division III team championships the easy way.
"Our team goal is to earn a bid to compete in the NCAA Championship," said coach John Newman. "The preferable way to do that is to grab one of the automatic spots...first or second...and not leave any doubt or leave it up to a vote of the committee."
The Saints have had back to back top ten finishes as a team at nationals and the regional meet has traditionally qualified four or five teams for the national championship race. And while the Saints are ranked fourth in the region and 24th nationally, they have put together a pair of solid performances in the NYSCTC and Liberty League Championships, winning the Liberty League and finishing second in the NYSCTC.
"Sam Rakoc was the top returnee for the region going into the season and he is coming into his own at the end of the season with back-to-back individual wins at the NYSCTC and Liberty League championships," said Newman. "We knew going into the season that it would take most of the season to have this team develop because several key guys were hurt during track season. We have progressed well during the season and trimmed our time gap among the top five runners from around two minutes to 30 seconds."
Rakoc has been the first Saint finisher in every race this season with five top five finishes against Division III competition and two wins. The other spots in the Saint finishing order have varied, freshman Spencer Patterson, junior Brendan Courneene, sophomore Trevor Bibb and sophomore Scott Smolensky have emerged as consistent members of the scoring pack for the Saints.
Patterson has been the second Saint scorer in three races and in the top four in all six while Bibb has been in the top five in five straight races and Courneene has scored in three straight meets. Smolensky had two scoring finishes prior to a second in the Liberty League championships and freshman Phil Marshall, sophomore Aaron Tompkins, junior Steve Petramale, freshman Wesley Kirui and juniors Jon Eng and Zach Nelson have all had top seven finishes during the course of the season.
"We have had a number of returnees with consistent performances and Patterson has had an outstanding year as a freshman. Wesley has shown outstanding development as a cross country runner and has improved by leaps and bounds since the start of the season," said Newman. "Smolensky, Courneene and Petramale are showing their maturity and coming on when it counts and Phil Marshall has been steady, although he had a little hiccup last week at the Liberty Leagues."
Geneseo (4th), NYU (12th), and Cortland (16th) are the teams ranked ahead of the Saints in the national polls and will be the top contenders at the regional in Rochester on Saturday. Other ranked teams from the region include Rochester in 30th, The College of New Jersey 34th and RPI 35th, all with an eye on a trip to the NCAA championship meet.