Rakoc, Saints Look Forward To NCAA Championship Race
Nov. 14: With a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the 2012 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be a valuable learning experience for St. Lawrence University's men's cross country team.
Just three of the runners who will compete in the championship hosted by Rose Hulman Institute in Terre Haute, IN on Saturday; senior Sam Rakoc, sophomore Scott Smolensky and junior Brendan Courneene have prior NCAA championship experience. Rakoc will be making his third appearance while Smolensky and Courneene will run for the second time. Sophomore Trevor Bibb and freshmen Spencer Patterson, Phil Marshall and Wesley Kirui will make up the rest of the seven runners for the Saints with junior Steve Petramale the alternate should any of the others not be able to compete on Saturday.
The Saints will be making their 16th total NCAA appearance since 1978 and their fifth in a row, but coach John Newman is not really expecting a third straight top ten finish. SLU was eighth a year ago and third in 2010, but head into Saturday's race ranked 28th in the country and are an at-large selection for the team field, finishing fifth in the Atlantic Regional championship.
"We are obviously going out there to run the best we can as a team, and see what we can do as far as placing," Newman said. "We returned Sam Rakoc, who was the top returning runner in the region, but from a big-race standpoint, we were pretty young going into the season. I think we developed nicely as the year went along and having the opportunity to continue a string of national meet appearances and to gain experience for the new guys at this level is a big plus for our program."
Rakoc has been the Saints' top runner in every race this season and has been in the top ten against Division III competition in every race and in the top five in the majority of those races. He won the Liberty League and NYSCTC individual championships and was sixth overall in the Atlantic Regional.
Patterson has been a consistent second man for the Saints throughout his rookie season and has top tens in both the NYSCTC and Liberty League Championships while Courneene has been a steady third runner with both Smolensky and Bibb also contributing as scorers in the three, four or five spots. Kirui has come on strong late in the season and was the fourth Saint scorer at the regional while Marshall was the fifth Saint scorer in the NYSCTC championship.
"We have had different runners step up in a number of races," said Newman. "Saturday we are hoping to put it all together."