The Golden Goose
The U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association has released its preseason polls for college cross country and the tri-state region is nicely represented.
On the men's side, the Iona Gaels are the top-ranked local team, holding down the No. 8 spot nationally (and No. 1 in the Northeast). Coach Ricardo Santos will be in search of the program's 22nd straight MAAC championship this fall, the longest such streak in the nation. He will rely on senior Mitch Goose, who had one of the most amazing moments in The Armory last winter.
At the MAAC Indoor Championships, Goose ran a sub-four mile without anyone remotely close. He ran in the slowest of two heats, with the second-place time over 4:20. Goose was also 40th at the NCAA Championships a year ago. The biggest challenge for Santos? Not having Leonard Korir around.
The nation's coaches have picked Wisconsin as the pre-season No. 1 nationally, thus the Badgers are in position to defend their national title. The coach? Former Iona head coach Mick Byrne.
Syracuse is No. 12 in the men's poll, which pleases Coach Chris Fox quite much. "Everybody's back. Everybody's healthy," he said. "We probably have our deepest men's team we've ever had."
Look for senior Forrest Misenti, junior Joseph Whelan and sophomore Jace Lowry to lead the way for the Orange.
Two local Ivy men's programs are ranked. Princeton, with new head cross country coach Jason Vigilante, is picked 21st and Columbia, guided by Coach Willy Wood, is 27th. The programs are remarkably similar in that each lost an American College record holder to graduation (Donn Cabral at Princeton; Kyle Merber at Columbia), but the teams collectively return 10 of the top 14 returnees from last year's snow-marred Heps Championships. Not surprisingly, that represents five apiece.
On the women's side, a young but talented Syracuse team is ranked ninth in the country. Senior Sarah Pagano has her leadership work cut out for her as the Orange welcome seven newcomers to the fold.
Peter Farrell's Princeton squad had won five straight Heps' crowns, but last year Cornell broke the string. Now both squads enter the season ranked nationally. The Tigers are No. 15, behind defending national champion Georgetown in the Mid-Atlantic region, but ahead of Villanova. Despite being in front of the Wildcats in the regional rankings, 'Nova is five spots in front in the national poll. But Princeton's duo of Greta Feldman and Alexis Mikaelian are out to make sense of that this fall.
Meanwhile, Cornell opens the season in the national rankings for the first time since 1995. Expect seniors Katie Kellner and Genna Hartung to lead the charge in defense of its Ivy title. While Columbia — with super soph Waverly Neer — received a vote in the national poll, the Bulldogs of Yale are before them in the regional ratings, just behind Cornell.
The Oregon Ducks are the top-ranked women's team in the national pre-season poll.