The Canisius College men’s cross country team finished in 16th place at the NCAA Northeast Regionals – the team’s best finish since 2002 – and the women finished in 27th, tying the best performance since 2007 on Friday in Van Cortlandt Park.
The event featured 40 of the nation’s top programs, including five men and three women’s programs ranked in the top-25.
The men’s team was led up front by freshman Jeff Antolos, who finished 71st overall. Antolos finished the 10k course in 31:52, and his finish was the 15th highest place finish for a Griff in program history.
"It was another great day for our program," said head coach Nate Huckle. "Jeff ran very confidently up front for us today. He's a two-time state champion with a history of big performances during the postseason, so I wasn't surprised by the result. He just went after it early and hung on during the second half of the race."
Sophomore Cooper Roach followed Antolos closely, finishing in 81st place (31:57). Roach’s finish was 19-spots higher than when he competed in the event last season. Fellow sophomore Michael Anvelt was the third Griff to finish in the top-100, finishing 94th overall (32:11).
The Griffs’ scoring was rounded out by another pair of freshmen – Brennan Root (32:30) and Xavier Sauvageau (32:22) – who finished in 104th and 111th places respectively.
The gap between the first and fifth runners was a season-best 30 seconds for the Griffs.
The men were also the top-finisher amongst Big Four rivals. The Griffs topped Buffalo (19th), Niagara (36th) and St. Bonaventure (37th).
"The entire men's team ran aggressively, and several of them set their season-best 8 kilometer time within the 10k race," Huckle said. "All-seven of our runners set their personal record for 10 kilometers. The 16th place finish was very solid. We were projected at 16th coming into the race, so it's great to be able to run to our potential. This team takes pride in performing at their best at the championship level, so they make sure they go out and get the job done."
After the men’s success, the women’s team followed suit and moved up five-spots on last year’s finish.
A pair of seniors led the way for the Griffs, as Catherine Phillips (22:15/95th) and Mikelle Cala (22:39/131st) were the top-two Canisius runners to cross the line. Cala was the Griffs’ top-finisher at the event in 2012.
Junior Jamie Wallace (23:23/175th), sophomore Robin Wagner (23:50/196th) and freshman Macey Walker (24:00/203rd) rounded out the Griffs’ scoring.
"On the women's side we took a big step forward," Huckle said. "They improved five positions from last season, and with a young squad we are capable of much more moving forward. Catherine and Mikelle were strong up front, and the rest of the team bought into our strategy of racing the first 3 kilometers hard to establish position early."
The women’s team tied their best finish since 2007 (which was a 27th place finish in ’08), it was also just the third time the team has finished inside the top-30 since 1997.
The Griffs will return to Van Cortlandt Park next Saturday, as the Griffs will compete at the ECAC Championships.
NOTES: The Griffs’ top-five on the men’s side finished in the top-111, the highest finish for all scoring runners since 1996… Three runners in the top-100 is the most since 2002 for the men… The meet was the first in career-history that Antolos was the first Griff across the line... The ECAC Championships will be the Griffs’ third-consecutive meet at Van Cortlandt park (MAAC Championships, NCAA Northeast Regional, ECAC Championships).