The Syracuse Orange men's team defended their ACC Championship in convincing fashion last Friday at Panorama Farms in Virginia. Led by individual winner Martin Hehir, Syracuse placed 5 runners in the top 11 for a total of 32 points. 2nd place NC State was well behind with 90 points.
Hehir took home the individual title, setting a new course record time of 23:15 for the 8k distance. The win gave Hehir a rare feat as he has now won conference titles in both the Big East and ACC. At the beginning of the year, I said Hehir had a chance of ending his career as the best distance runner in SU history, and so far he's been living up to that billing.
Hehir took control of the race over the final 2k and showed that he might be able to give SU a low score at Nationals, where the Orange will look to crack the top 5 for the 1st time in over 60 years. His time was the fastest winning time of any of last weekend's conference championships. Not far behind Hehir were Max Straneva (3rd in a time of 23:23), Justyn Knight (8th, 23: 30), Joel Hubbard (9th, 23:31), and MJ Erb (11th, 23:36).
Last year Syracuse put 7 runners in the top 25 at the ACC meet. This year, the Orange placed their first 7 runners in the top 15 with a gap of only 33 seconds between them, and this is with Hehir running a course record. All of that adds up to a truly dominating win. The Syracuse depth is certainly impressive and to further underscore just how deep, Syracuse placed their 8th runner (Reed Kamyszek in 19th place) before all but one school had their top 3 runners finish.
It looks like Colorado is still a clear favorite to win the National title, but Syracuse is running as well as anyone else right now and will certainly be a team to watch in a few weeks in Terre Haute. First, SU will compete next Friday in the NCAA Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park in NYC. A tough Iona team should give a good challenge to the men, but these two schools seem to be clear favorites to secure the automatic qualifiers to the NCAA meet.
The SU women didn't fare as well as the men last week. Facing a deep and talented field, the Orange were able to only muster a 7th place tie with Boston College. North Carolina took the team title in a surprise over Florida State with BC's Liz Westphal winning the individual title in a course record time of 19:43 for the 6k course.
Margo Malone led Syracuse with an impressive 3rd place finish behind Westphal and FSU's Colleen Quigley, two of the more talented seniors in the country. Malone's finishing time was 20:01 and she was followed by Jesse Petersen in 20th place (20:49). Both Petersen and Malone earned All-ACC recognition for their performances, but unlike the men, the Syracuse women did not keep a close pack and that's what hurt the team finish.
Rounding out the scoring for Syracuse were Maura Linde (40th, 21:23), Rebecca Skodis (49th, 21:28) and Haley Cutright (50th, 21:29). The Orange women will need to tighten this gap between the 3-5 runners and the top 2 at the Northeast Regional meet next Friday. The top two teams will automatically qualify for the NCAA meet and Syracuse will face tough competition from Iona, Dartmouth, BC and Providence.