The Men's and Women's Cross Country teams enjoyed another successful campaign in 2009 that saw continued improvement and growth from each of its squads. Highlights from the season included women and men finishing first and second, respectively at the Monmouth Invitational, the women's second-place finish at the National Catholic Championships, the Blue and Gold's continued dominance in the Little Three and the women's team earning its best finish at the MAAC Championship (third place) since 1997 when Canisius took first.
The Griffs look to put together an even longer highlight reel in 2010 as they return 11 runners from last year's squads. Even with the graduation of highly-regarded seniors the team expects big things this season.
"I'm excited about this year's team," Canisius cross country head coach Pete Osmond said. "There's an excitement and energy on this team that you don't find every year. It's a feeling amongst the group that they're running not just for themselves, but also for everyone on the team. Individuals are willing to make sacrifices for their teammates. It's a great attitude to have."
The Blue and Gold hope that the newfound energy can help in their quest for the program's sixth MAAC Championship.
"The MAAC Championship is the major meet for us as a team," Osmond said. "So that's our main focus. We work hard all year and try to build momentum heading into MAACs so we're at our best."
While it's always a goal for the team to finish first, Osmond made it clear that improvement from race to race is what he looks for the most.
"We obviously want to win every time we compete," Osmond said. "However if we go up against teams that are better but we still improve, then that's fantastic. We have specific goals heading into every run aside from just placing first so we aim to hit those objectives every time out."
The women's team improved greatly in 2009 placing in the top-three in six of the seven races that they competed in. This is a stark contrast to their two top-three finishes in 2008. The Griffs took first in the Monmouth Invitational and the Little Three, second in the Duquesne Duels and National Catholic Championship and third at the MAAC Championship.
The team returns six runners from the 2009 roster, and Osmond feels they have a shot to be even more successful in the coming season.
"We have a very talented group of girls," Osmond said. "Many of our runners were banged up last year so with a healthy unit the bar could be raised even more."
Three freshmen will join the Canisius ranks and according to Osmond it hasn't taken them long to acclimate themselves to the team.
"On the women's side we have three newcomers joining us this year," Osmond said. "They proved in their high school careers that they have a lot of talent. They have really jumped right in and I think the support they get here at Canisius has been really good for them."
That support will most likely come from team captains, senior Maura Frauenhofer and junior Christine Mulvihill. Frauenhofer has been the Griffs most consistent runner in her time at Canisius. She finished first on the team in every race in 2009, with a first-overall finish at the Duqusne Duals with a time of 18:43. Mulvihill continues to be a solid producer as she finished first during the Little Three Championship and second at the Monmouth Invitational in 2009. Both of the runners provide the team with solid leadership.
"Maura and Christina will be our captains this year," Osmond said. "The leadership that both of them will provide will be key in 2010. They've had the exposure to the meets and our opponents and they can relay that information onto our younger runners."
The men's team showed improvement of their own in 2009 producing top-three finishes in three meets after only accomplishing that feat once in 2008. The men will have to continue to improve without the services of standout Vasilis Kariolis. Kariolis was the team's top finisher in every race in 2009. While the Griffs will miss Kariolis' production, Osmond is still optimistic about his team.
"Vasilis will surely be missed," Osmond said. "However I'm confident in the group we have moving forward. We recruited some very talented runners and this group is really pushing each other to be at their best."
Those new recruits will look to junior captain John McDonald for leadership in 2010. McDonald had a strong 2009 with a third-place finish at the Little Three, and a seventh-place finish at the Monmouth Invitational. McDonald also had a strong showing at the MAAC Championship in 2008, coming in 33rd in a field of more then 120.
"John has been a strong runner for us," Osmond said. "He's going to provide our younger runners great insight and guidance on the different races and what to expect. It's great to have a guy like John on this team."
There aren't many surprises when it comes to the Canisius College race schedule in 2010. The Griffs will open up the season on Sept. 4, in Pittsburgh, Pa. competing in the Duquesne Duals starting at 9 a.m.
"We're going to be competing against some tough opponents at Duquesne," Osmond said. "However it's a bit of a smaller meet and it's a good way to ease our runners into the season. It's a beautiful area and we've had some pretty good finishes in the past so we're looking forward to getting started."
Canisius will also head to Notre Dame for the Catholic Championships along with meets at Albany N.Y. and Bethlehem, Pa.
The biggest change to the 2010 schedule comes not with a meet but a location. Canisius will host the Little Three Championships this year, competing right in the Griff's backyard at Delaware Park.
"We look forward to hosting the Little Three this year," Osmond said. "It's always nice to compete at home and show our fans what we can do."
Canisius will compete for its sixth and seventh MAAC Championship in Madison, Conn. on Friday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m.
"We like our schedule and we like our team," Osmond said. "It's going to be a good season."