Syracuse, Providence Tops at Coast to Coast XC

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)
(PHOTO: Stony Brook’s Christina Melium topping Syracuse’s Margo Malone at the line – photo by FitzFoto/NERunner)

(25-Sep) — The men of Syracuse and women of Providence couldn’t have
asked for a stronger start to the 2015 NCAA Cross Country season,
picking up commanding team victories here at the Boston College
Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown at Franklin Park. Syracuse, led by
overall winner Justyn Knight, put four men in the top six and tallied a
score of 25 points for the 8-kilometer race. Massachusetts native
Catarina Rocha finished third overall, helping the eighth ranked-Friars
upset No. 4 Georgetown for the women’s title. Stony Brook’s Christina
Melian claimed top women’s individual honors.


Knight may only be a sophomore, but he competed with the poise of a
senior here, running up front before striking for the win. The Canadian
national followed Coach Chris Fox’s orders, staying with the team pack
through the opening kilometers before upping the tempo on the trails of
Franklin Park.

At the mile mark in 4:45, the Orange made up a
giant block on the left hand side of the trail, six athletes within a
meter at the head of the field. They’d stay relatively tight through
two miles (3.2 km), joined by Purdue’s Matt McClintock and Cornell’s
Ben Rainero up front.

Exiting the famed Wilderness Loop for the
final time roughly 6 km into the race, Syracuse had begun to put a
stranglehold on the tempo. What was a giant pack now numbered five:
three Orange in a line (Knight, senior Martin Hehir, and sophomore
Colin Bennie), with McClintock’s black Purdue vest and Rainero’s white
Cornell kit sprinkled in.

Only McClintock would break the
Orange’s grip on the the top four, accelerating down Bearcage Hill and
into the final straight. But it was Knight who had the best kick of
all, cruising through the line first in 23:51.0. McClintock and Hehir
made up the top three in 23:52.6 and 23:54.2, while Bennie and Rainero
completed the top five (23:54.8 and 24:04.0 their times). Syracuse’s
fourth and fifth men –Joel Hubbard and Dan Lennon– placed seventh and
tenth, giving the Orange a winning tally of 25.

 “I had
directions from my coach, and we followed it out. We executed the time
very well,” said Knight, 19. “The last mile I just made sure I had
enough energy to go and just went for it… For Martin and I it was our
debut race [this season]. That was just the plan; we didn’t want to
overexert ourselves today but we definitely got a good race in today.”

makes Knight’s victory even more impressive is that he’s achieved
supreme fitness while running only 50 to 60 miles per week, with a long
run of 70 minutes. He was Canada’s top finisher at this year’s IAAF
World Junior Cross Country Championships in China (25th overall), and
finished 8th at last year’s IAAF World Junior Outdoor Championships

“We’re just going to stay comfortable for a while and as
the years go on [build up mileage]. Because I came in at very low
mileage, I don’t want to break my legs,” he said. “We’re just trying to
do it in the safest way possible.”

Coach Fox was extremely
proud of his team effort, as their top five had an impressive
25.7-second spread (their top seven had a spread of 34.5 seconds). Fox
said the team has taken on a professional mentality, and fully expects
to challenge reigning champion Colorado for the NCAA team title.

it was great. No complaints today,” he said. “It’s our best team for
sure… These guys are good track runners, and a lot of them have a lot
of background now. They train hard and are very professional. It’s a
group of guys who run like they’re pros. They live the lifestyle and
are smart about the things they do. There’s just no goofing around.”

the team standings, Syracuse’s 25 points topped Dartmouth (67), Purdue
(82), and Cornell (93), among others. Florida State placed seventh (186
points), though ran without highly acclaimed transfer Harry Mulenga.


Georgetown and Providence came in as top-10 teams and fierce foes,
Stony Brook’s Christina Melian sneaked under the radar for the
individual title. The junior from Staten Island, N.Y., found her spot
up front alongside Syracuse’s Margo Malone and Providence’s Sarah
Collins; the latter was racing for the first time since 2014.

two miles (3.2 km) in 10:47 and entering the Wilderness Loop as a pack
of three, Melian and Malone reappeared with 800m to go as a tandem,
having slightly gaped Collins. The pair would battle step for step
until Melian gained a meter edge down the homestretch, stopping the
clock in 16:50 to Malone’s 16:51.

“Slowly but surely, as people
started to drop back, I wanted to be one of the ones in the front.
Sometimes patience is the key,” said Melian, who has never qualified
for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. “I think mentally it sets me
up really well, just gaining that confidence and knowing that I belong
with the top pack. I only competed in my first NCAA’s indoors this past
season so I’m kind of new to the whole thing. It gives me a big
confidence boost.”

Behind the pair, Ray Treacy’s Providence put
on a clinic as a team. Catarina Rocha overtook Collins with roughly 100
meters left, giving the Friars a powerful third and fourth place punch
(16:53.9 and 16:55.6). Junior Lauren Mullins finished seventh,
sophomore Brianna Ilarda 12th, and sophomore Katie Lembo 16th, rounding
out the scoring five. Providence’s tally of 42 far surpassed runner-up
Syracuse (127) and Georgetown (134). The placings were ever more
impressive knowing Georgetown entered the meet ranked No. four by the
USTFCCCA, ahead of Providence (8th) and Syracuse (19th).

good to be back,” said Collins, a member of Providence’s 2013 national
championship team. “We’re really happy, and we just want to take things
step by step: stay healthy, stay strong, never get ahead of ourselves.
Just keep working off each other on the tough days, the easy days, and
the tempo runs; just work together and continuously improve from race
to race.”

Coach Treacy saw exactly what he had hoped for: a strong presence from top to bottom.

was very pleased all around,” he said. “Somebody said to one of our
coaches today ‘On paper you don’t look very good, in terms of [track] times’… But they are great cross country runners and that’s what you
do. I think even the 6 km distance will suit them a lot better, I think
the extra K will mean a lot to us when it comes to the end of the

For nearly ten minutes, Treacy spoke passionately about the team’s depth, strengths, and personality.

can control themselves on the cross country course very well, they know
what to do and are smart out there, and they know how to run a course
when they are on the course,” he said. Well aware that No. 1 ranked New
Mexico will be hard to beat, Treacy said he’s focused on the team in
front of him. He is confident, though, that Providence will be battling
for a podium spot come November.

“They don’t fear anybody on
the cross country course. This will give them a lot of confidence going
forward, and that’s what I wanted to do, give them confidence. They are
their own team right now; they are not the team from two years ago
[that won the NCAA title] or three years ago [that finished second].
That was a different team. But one through five, I think this team is
probably better through five [scorers]. Maybe we don’t have the big
hitters up front like we had with Emily [Sisson] and Laura [Nagel] and
Sarah [Collins] two years ago. But we can probably score four nearly as
good as the other team did two years ago,” he said.

Justyn Knight (r) kicking to victory over Matt McClintock (Purdue
singlet), Colin Bennie (#242), and Martin Hehir (#247) – Photo by Chris
Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly

PHOTO: Christina Melian of
Stony Brook (r) sprinting to victory over Syracuse’s Margo Malone and
Providence’s Catarina – Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly

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