Cross Country hosts MAC championships
Bulls look to make statement in rare home race
The Bulls will try to use the comforts of home to their advantage as both the men's and women's cross country teams try to take home first place at the MAC Championships on Grand Island Saturday. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
The cross-country team has the opportunity to do something few Buffalo runners have ever done: compete at home in a meaningful meet.
The Bulls will welcome the Mid-American Conference to Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island for the 2012 MAC Championships this Saturday. The race will feature a Bulls team that has been steadily improving over the past few years and the competition - some nationally ranked teams and runners.
"I don't think people realize that the Mid-American Conference is a national-caliber conference," said head coach Vicki Mitchell. "A lot of athletes are going to be advancing to the NCAA championships that are going to be running here Saturday."
The men's race will feature two-time defending champion Eastern Michigan, led by senior Terefe Ejigu, who finished second in last year's MAC Championship and hasn't finished worse than third in any competition this season.
The women's field features defending individual champion Juli Accurso, who has had a strong season thus far, with a handful of top finishes at small meets and a 13th-place finish at Pre-Nationals.
Despite the tough field in both races, the Bulls are excited to race on Saturday.
"I cannot wait for us to get on the line and prove that Buffalo is a tough, deep and top team in the MAC," said sophomore Gabby Leo. "It's going to be a lot of fun for us and a lot of fun to watch."
Both Bulls teams performed well at last year's MAC championships, but the men shined brighter.
The men finished third in the field of nine, behind Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, and were led by then-seniors Dylan Conway and John Anzina.
Conway and Anzina graduated, but the team was left in the capable hands of juniors Mike Pressler and Zach Ahart and sophomore Alex Saavedra. The trio has led the Bulls all season.
Seniors Shelby Janutol and Samantha Beim and freshman Kaitlin McCadden have led the women. Janutol, a transfer from Ferris State University, has been a huge part of the team. She has been a top finisher all season for Buffalo and will look to make an impact in her final cross-country championship.
The team has been preparing the for meet in recent weeks by attempting to keep healthy and practicing at the Beaver Island Park course. Practicing at the race site is one perk that comes with hosting the meet.
"It's only every eight or nine years that the conference championship is hosted in Buffalo," said senior Emma Denton. "It's our turf and it's our turn to make an impression at the conference meet."
This season has been a culmination of the Bulls' hard work and Mitchell's strong recruiting over the past few seasons.
The program continues to grow. Its performance as the Bulls host the championships will be a good measure of where the program stands in building a strong cross country culture.
On Saturday, the women's 6k race will start at 11 a.m. and the men's 8k will start at 12 p.m.
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