Cross country looks to build from recent successes
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Last season when the Buffalo cross country team hosted the NCAA Northeast Regional, the men finished seventh in the region – a high mark for the program.
This year, the men are back and ready to welcome the Mid-American Conference to Buffalo with a championship at stake. The women, after finishing 25th in that same invite, are looking to improve with a few new faces.
Like the women, the men team’s new faces are the focus this year. They graduated four of their top seven runners from last season, but the guys that have returned and the incoming freshmen have given the Bulls the look of a championship-caliber team.
The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ranked the Bulls 11th in the preseason Northeast region, four spots below their finish last season.
The Bulls have plenty of good young runners and are ready to improve on last year’s successes.
At their first meet this season, the Harry Lang Invite at Hamilton, N.Y., the Bulls placed five runners in the top 35 – three of whom are underclassmen.
Leading the way for the men are junior Zach Ahart, the top returner from last years team, and sophomores Alex Saavedra and Zack Krause.
“Those guys are putting in a lot of hard work and are really doing what they need to do to be great,” said head coach Vicki Mitchell.
Although the freshmen have to adjust to running an 8K race – more then 50 percent longer then they are used to running – Mitchell is excited to watch the trio of freshmen Brian Crimmins, Austin Coneys and Cameron Bruce improve throughout the season.
All three finished within at the top 55 at the Harry Lang Invite and look to continue their success in their first collegiate 8K run.
These men, specifically the returning runners, are building off a culture Mitchell has been building for years. Last season, led by standout senior Dylan Conway, the Bulls were finally able to show their potential and now continue to prove Buffalo is an up-and-coming program.
The women were not quite as successful last year, but have just as many reasons to be excited.
Senior Shelby Janutal, who transferred from Ferris State College this season, is making her Buffalo debut on Saturday.
Janutal finished 16th at the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional last season and helped her team finish eighth in the country.
Two weeks ago, the Bulls were paced by two underclassmen, sophomore Gabby Leo and freshman Kaitlin McCadden. Although Leo has been sick over the past two weeks, Mitchell expects her team to be led by underclassmen once again.
This weekend at the UB Stampede Invite, the Bulls welcome two Mid-American Conference opponents: the men and women’s squads from Akron and the women’s team from Bowling Green will give Buffalo an early bench mark to see where they stand in the conference.
Mitchell hopes her teams compete with their conference rivals. If they can do that, Mitchell is confident that when the MAC returns to Buffalo in November for the conference championship, Buffalo can be more competitive than they have ever been before.
“There is no additional pressure,” Mitchell said. “For us it is an additional energizer. We don’t have the opportunity to compete at home very often against the best competition. And hosting the conference championship is just like hosting the regional championship. Last year, our teams rose to the occasion. They get excited and really value that opportunity to compete at home.”
The race will take place at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island. The men will start at noon and the women will start at 12:30 p.m.