Facing a loaded field in Madison, Syracuse easily out-paced the other 19 ranked teams and earned their 2nd Wisconsin Adidas Invitational title, Led once again by Martin Hehir's 7th place finish (23:55 for the 8k course), Syracuse won the title with a score of 85 points finishing comfortably ahead of Iona's 154 points.
The victory surprised many in the running community as Syracuse has been considered an "underachiever" by a number of internet message board posters. Yes, there is an online message board focused on distance running, and yes, many people dismiss Syracuse, can you believe it? The above tweet from Chris Fox is in reference to the live broadcast's comment that Syracuse could not be leading the race at the 6k mark, and that there must be a chip malfunction. The thought of some is that SU's 10th place team finish from last year is nothing to brag about and while there might be some merit to that argument, the Orange performance in Madison was good enough to quiet those critics for the time being.
The strength of the Syracuse depth was on display as the top 5 Orange runners were separated by only 14 seconds. After Hehir, freshmen Justyn Knight and senior Max Straneva were next for SU in 14th and 17th place respectively. MJ Erb (23rd) and Dan Lennon (24th) rounded out the scoring. Placing 5 runners in the top 24 in a race of this quality sent a message that this Syracuse team is on the rise.
Maintaining this tight pack will be important as the Orange head into the final 3 meets of the season. Keeping a close gap can offset the likelihood that SU's not going to place their top runner ahead of the other team title contenders at Nationals.
In large races, running a few seconds slower will result in major point differentials. For example, if Erb and Lennon ran 10 seconds slower at Wisconsin, they would have dropped 20 places. That's a 40-point swing and it's a significant change in a small time. Now, of course this swing can happen the other way and that's what makes this Syracuse team dangerous. They have the depth to hang together in a big meet, and a lot can happen over the 10k distance.
For a good example of the pack running, skip to 7:48 of the below race video. There's the SU top 5 at what is noted as the 7k mark and you can see how they've kept close contact with one another:
The Orange women faced off against even tougher competition as 21 other ranked teams lined up in Madison SU earned a 12th place finish, which is a little bit lower than they projected heading in. Margo Malone led the way for Syracuse placing 23rd in a time of 20:25 for the 6k course. Sydney Leiher and Jesse Petersen were the 2nd and 3rd runners for Syracuse, with Maura Linde and Haley Cutright rounding out the scoring. Unlike the men, the SU women were unable to maintain a close pack as there was a gap of 1:23 between Malone and Cutright, and against a talented field that is going to cost a team crucial points.
SU will be in the mix for a top 3 finish at the ACC Championships and looks to be in good position to qualify for Nationals as well. It seems to be a transition year for the women, and duplicating this top-15 finish at the NCAA meet would be a nice result for the team.
Here is video of the women's race
Next up for Syracuse will be a race at Cornell next week, but most of the top runners will be held out in preparation for the ACC Championships on October 31st.