2011 BIG EAST Cross Country Championships Preview

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - After two months of competition, the BIG EAST cross country season comes to an end this weekend as all 16 schools travel to Louisville, Ky., for the 2011 BIG EAST Cross Country Championships. The meet will be held on Oct. 29 at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, hosted by the University of Louisville. The men kick things off at 11:00 a.m. ET with an 8k race, and the women's 6k race will follow at 11:50 a.m. ET. Below is a preview of the 14 men's teams and 16 women's teams heading into this weekend's meet.
 
Men
The Syracuse Orange are looking for their third consecutive championship after claiming back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Providence senior Lee Carey took home the individual title at last year's championship. Three teams are ranked in the top 30 including No. 14 Providence, No. 16 Villanova and No. 29 Notre Dame.
 
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have won four of the five meets in which it has entered this year, including winning the All-Ohio championship for the first time since 2001. Senior Eric Finan has been the top finisher at four meets and was third in the Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 16. Finan was named BIG EAST Cross Country Athlete of the Week on Oct. 18. He also broke the course record at the Queen City Invitational on Sept. 9. Junior Oliver Book has been overall runner-up behind Finan twice (Queen City and All-Ohio) and has been the Bearcats' No. 2 runner four times. Sophomore Kevin Fink has been UC's No. 3 runner in the past four meets.
 
Connecticut: Senior Scott Johnson and junior Nick Aguila lead the Huskies. Johnson has been the top runner for UConn in both meets he has entered, finishing fourth (22:40) at the UMass Invite and 14th (25:11) at the New England Championship. Aguila was fifth (22:43) and 19th (25:17) at those races, respectively. The Huskies captured a first-place finish at the New England Championship for the first time since 1969. Other key Huskies are sophomore Ryan McGuire and junior Jordan Magath.
 
DePaul: Senior Matthew Graham has collected two BIG EAST Male Cross Country Athlete of the Week awards this season. He has notched first-place finishes at the UIC Home Opener (4.1 miles, 20:29.5) and the National Catholic Cross Country Championship (5 miles, 24:15). Graham placed fifth at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic and 23rd at the Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind. At the UIC Home Opener, the DePaul men earned their best team finish of the season when they placed third. At the National Catholic Championship, the Blue Demon men earned a seventh-place finish.
 
Georgetown:  Georgetown boasts a highly touted freshman class that has added depth to its roster with talented rookies such as Omar Kaddurah and graduate student transfer Alex Lundy. The men opened with a team win at the Lou Onesty Open, taking first place with 20 points, defeating the host Cavaliers who finished second with 72 points. In a competitive field that featured 19 nationally ranked teams, the Hoyas finished 24th at the Adidas Invitational with just 1:02 separating the first and fifth GU finishers.
 
Louisville:  The Cardinal men placed second at the 2010 BIG EAST Cross Country Championships, their highest finish since winning the title in 2007, the last time the championships were held in Louisville. The men return all but one letterwinner from the 2010 squad including all-BIG EAST honorees Matt Hughes and Tyler Byrne. Hughes is a two-time NCAA Champion in the 3,000m steeplechase. Currently, the Cardinal men are ranked fourth in the USTFCCCA Southeast Regional and are receiving votes in the national poll. Byrne has been the team's top runner through four races this season, registering victories at the Mid-America Opener and the Greater Louisville Classic. He became the first runner to win the Greater Louisville Classic since All-American Wesley Korir achieved the feat in 2004 and 2005.
 
Marquette: Senior Blake Johnson has led the Marquette men in every race this season, while follow senior captain Peter Bolgert has placed second on the squad in each meet. Johnson recorded top-five overall finishes at the Crusader Open (first) Badger Open (second) and National Catholic Championships (fifth). The Golden Eagles previously competed at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park on Oct. 1 at the Greater Louisville Classic where they placed sixth.
 
Notre Dame: The Irish finished fifth at the 2010 BIG EAST Championship. The program has won five BIG EAST titles most recently in 2005. The squad earned a second-place finish at the Crusader Invitational on Sept. 2. The team hosted and won the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 16, finished 11th at the Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 30 and finished 19th at the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 14. The Irish are led by sophomore Martin Grady and junior Jeremy Rae. The team is ranked fifth in the Great Lakes Region and 29th nationally.
 
Pittsburgh: The Panthers finished second at the Cappy Anderson Invitational held in Princess Anne, Md. Sophomore Ben Kisley has crossed the finish line first for the Panthers in every race except one (Leopard Invitational) this season. Junior Andrew Cerrito paced the Panthers with a 30th-place finish in that event. Kisley, along with sophomore Rich Addison's best showings of the season came at the Cappy Anderson Invitational where they finished in fourth place and 11th place, respectively.
 
Providence: The Friars have won 15 BIG EAST Championships, including the first four from 1979 to 1982. Providence last won the conference championship in 2006. A Providence runner has won the BIG EAST individual championship 11 times, most recently last season, when senior Lee Carey won the event. The Friars are currently ranked 14th in the nation, and are led by senior All-American David McCarthy. Providence has qualified for 14 of the last 15 NCAA Championships.
 
Rutgers: Freshman Christopher Banafato led the Scarlet Knights at the Fordham Invitational and Leeber Invitational. He took third overall at the Leeber Invitational with a time of 26:44.
 
Seton Hall: The Pirates captured a pair of top-five finishes at the Delaware Invitational on Sept. 17, finishing fifth, and at the Towson Invitational on Sep. 25 after claiming third place. Junior Jared Hanko has paced the Pirates in all six meets this season. His top finish came at the Towson Invitational, when he finished 13th and completed the 8k course in 27:08.97. Sophomore Corey Hellwig is the only Pirate runner to compete in every meet this season.
 
USF: The Bulls have placed in the top-10 as a team in four of their five meets this season. Their highest team finish was sixth at the USF Invitational. Sophomore Connor Bauer has placed in the top 50 in four of five meets this season, with his highest finish 15th at the UT Early Bird Classic. The squad is looking to improve after a 13th-place finish at the conference championship last year.
 
Syracuse: The Orange are looking to win their third straight BIG EAST Championship. Senior Pat Dupont has led the Orange in each of his three races this season. The 2010 All-American competed at the Colgate Invitational finishing first with a time of 25:18 before an 11th-place finish at the Paul Short Invitational, and 63rd-place finish at the Wisconsin Invitational. In addition to Dupont, the Orange return two runners who earned All-BIG EAST status last season in junior Forrest Misenti and senior Steve Weeks.
 
Villanova: Villanova finished in fourth place at the Paul Short Run in 10th place of 39 teams at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational. At the top of the Wildcats' lineup, seniors Keith Capecci and Matthew Gibney have stepped up and are running the best they have at any point during their careers. Capecci and Gibney were the top two finishers for Villanova at each of the two scored meets the team has entered this season. Senior Brian Long was the individual champion at the season-opening Main Line Invitational and had a strong performance at the Wisconsin meet two weeks ago. The lineup for the Wildcats is both experienced and balanced. At the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, just 26 seconds separated the team's top five runners. In addition to Capecci, Gilbney and Long, Villanova will rely on contributions from senior Matt Kane, junior Mathew Mildenhall and freshman Samuel McEntee.
 
 
Women:
The women's field features some of the top teams in the country, including No. 4 Villanova, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 7 Providence and No. 9 Syracuse. The Wildcats are looking for their fourth straight BIG EAST title after winning not only the BIG EAST Championship, but also the NCAA Championship in 2009 and 2010. The women's field includes three other top-30 teams in No. 18 West Virginia, No. 23 Notre Dame and No. 28 Connecticut.
 
Cincinnati: The Bearcats finished third at the Queen City Invitational and fifth at the Commodore Classic and All-Ohio championships. The squad was 30th at the Pre-Nationals. Senior Alison Zukowski has been the Bearcat's top runner in three of four meets. Her best individual finish was third (Queen City). She also was fifth at the Commodore Classic. Freshman Emily Clay was UC's top finisher at All-Ohio (10th) and was the No. 2 runner three other times. She was seventh at Queen City. Junior Courtney Staruch was twice the No. 3 runner at the Queen City and All-Ohio.
 
Connecticut: This season the Huskies were nationally ranked for the first time in program history. Sophomore Lauren Sara leads the team with a first-place finish at the CCSU Invite (17:10), seventh at the Griak (20:52) and third overall at the Penn State Nationals (20:55). Other key members of the UConn squad include freshman Lindsay Crevoiserat, senior Courtney Dinnan, junior Shauna McNiff, senior Heather Wilson and junior Brigitte Mania.
 
DePaul: The DePaul women notched their best team finish at the UIC Home Opener, where they placed third. Senior Toni Salvatore earned the top times for the DePaul women at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic (18:11.83) and the Pre-National Invitational (23:20). Freshman Jacqueline Kasal collected team-best finishes at the UIC Home Opener and the National Catholic Championship. The squad placed 13th of 33 at the National Catholic Cross Country Championship.
 
Georgetown: The Hoyas return two All-Americans from the 2010 squad in Emily Infeld and Emily Jones. Georgetown boasts a deep squad as they have posted first, fourth and second place finishes in its first three meets all against strong competition. In her first race of the season, Emily Infeld finished fifth overall at the Pre-National Invitational.
 
Louisville: Freshman Madie Davidson has led the Cardinal women through all four races this season. She has recorded two overall top-five finishes: second at the Mid-America Opener and third at Navy's Salty Seadog Invitational.
 
Marquette: Freshman Kenzie Vicker and classmate Elisia Meyle have each paced the Marquette women in a pair of meets while sophomore Sarah Ball let the Golden Eagles at the Badger Open. Ten different runners have landed in Marquette's top five this season. The Golden Eagles previously competed at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park on Saturday, Oct. 1 in the Greater Louisville Classic. In that meet, the squad finished 20th.
 
Notre Dame: The Notre Dame women finished sixth at the 2010 BIG EAST Championship. The program has won three BIG EAST titles with the most recent coming in 2005. The Irish finished second at the Crusader Invitational on Sept. 2. The team hosted and won the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 16. At the Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 30, the team finished in fifth place. On Oct. 14, Notre Dame finished in 15th place at the Wisconsin Invitational. The team is led by junior Jessica Rydberg, who was the BIG EAST Female Athlete of the Week on Sept. 20. She has paced the Irish in all four races this season after missing all of last year with an injury. Notre Dame is ranked second in the Great Lakes Region and 23rd nationally.
 
Pittsburgh: The Panthers finished second at the Cappy Anderson Invitational held in Princess Anne, Md. On Sept. 17. Freshman Morgan Perry and sophomore Stephanie Powers have finished in the Panthers' top three in all four of the team's races this season. Powers' best finish came in the Cappy Anderson Invitational, where she finished in second place. Junior Emily Barno recorded her best finish of the season when she crossed the finish line in 15th place at the Duquesne Duals on Sept. 3.
 
Providence: The seventh-ranked Friars feature three runners who have earned All-American status in cross country, track or both: junior Shelby Greany, sophomore Emily Sisson and senior Hannah Davidson. Greany and Sisson placed 12th and 14th, respectively at last season's NCAA Cross Country Championships. The Friars won the Paul Short Invitational on Sept. 30, outracing 44 other teams. Providence placed four runners in the top 12. The Friars have won the BIG EAST Championship fifteen times (1995-1997, 2004 and 2006), and have finished in the top five every year since 1985. Seven times a Providence runner has won the BIG EAST individual championship.
 
Rutgers: Sophomore Briana Deming took second at the Connecticut College Invitational with a time of 22:06. She led the Scarlet Knights at the Fordham Invitational and Monmouth Invitational. Deming won the Metropolitan Cross Country Championship with a time of 18:05.
 
St. John's: St. John's has finished in the top three in all but one of its races this year. The Red Storm placed third at the Metropolitan Championships and took the team title at the St. John's Cross Country Fall Festival. Senior Nicole Cocozza has been the leading finisher for the team in all but one race this season and is coming off an individual championship at the St. John's Fall Festival. St. John's returns five of its top six finishers from last year's 14th-place finishing team at the BIG EAST Championship.
 
Seton Hall: The Pirates captured a pair of top-five finishes after taking fifth place at the Monmouth XC Kickoff on Sep. 3 and claiming fourth place at the Delaware Invitational on Sep. 17. Freshman Mary Migton has had a successful debut season, leading the team in every meet and claiming five top-10 finishes. She ran her fastest time of the season (18:39) at the Metropolitan Championship on Oct. 7 to take seventh place. Junior Christina Chafos and sophomore Nyala Eddings have also been consistent finishers for Seton Hall, competing and factoring in the scoring in all six meets.
 
USF: The Bulls have placed in the top five in every meet they have entered a full team this season. The squad has first place finishes at the UT Early Bird Classic and the USF Invite. Senior Allie Prendergast has placed in the top 20 in every meet she has entered, including first-place finishes at the UT Early Bird Classic and USF Invite. Like the men, the women are looking to improve after a 13th-place finish at the conference championship last year.
 
Syracuse: Syracuse hopes to build on last year's third-place finish at the BIG EAST Championship, which tied a program best. The SU women are ranked ninth nationally. Senior Lauren Penney has earned top-15 finishes in each of her three races this season. She finished in a tie for first at the Colgate Invitational with junior Sarah Pagano with a time of 21:00 before a fifth-place finish at the Paul Short Invitational and a 13th-place finish at the Wisconsin Invitational. Penny, along with seniors Natalie Busby and Heather Stephens, earned NCAA Northeast Regional honors last season.
 
Villanova: Senior Sheila Reid is the 2010 NCAA champion and two-time BIG EAST individual champion who has helped lead Villanova to three straight team titles. Reid was the BIG EAST Female Athlete of the Week on Oct. 17 after winning the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational. She has won her last five races and nine of her last 11 starts dating back to the beginning of the 2009 season, including her individual title at the Wisconsin meet two weeks ago. Villanova enters the conference championship this weekend ranked No. 4 in the nation. Senior Bogdana Mimic and sophomore Emily Lipari join Reid as the top returning runners. Senior Callie Hogan brings a great deal of experience to the team and sophomore Nicky Akande has stepped up and shown that she is ready to be a consistent scorer so far this season.
 
West Virginia: The Mountaineers won their first major invitational since 2009 with a victory at the Penn State National with a season-best 45 points. Senior Kate Harrison has two first-place marks on the year first at the Toledo Bubble Buster on Sept. 23 and second at the Penn State National on Oct. 14. Junior Kaitlyn Gillespie has two second-place finishes on season at the Toledo Bubble Buster and the Penn State National. This will be the second time this season the Mountaineers make the trip to Louisville. They competed at the Greater Louisville XC Classic on Oct. 1, coming in eighth place with 247 points. Redshirt junior Stephanie Aldea arrived first for the team at the meet in 15th place with a time of 17:26. The last BIG EAST title for West Virginia was in 2007. West Virginia hopes to earn its fourth Top-10 national finish in five seasons this year, thus looking to earn at-large qualifying points at BIG EAST and the NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional on Nov. 12.