The Syracuse Orange Cross-Country teams came to Louisville looking to cap off successful seasons and they delivered in a big way. The Orange men pulled off the upset to earn the program's 2nd National Championship (the first was in 1951).
Heading into the race, the Colorado Buffaloes were the clear favorite to win their 3rd title in a row. The deep and talented squad had coasted through the regular season and were expected to use their depth to outlast Stanford and Syracuse....then a funny thing happened as this race became a race thanks to Villanova's Patrick Tiernan, who pushed the early pace and spread the pack.
Syracuse established a strong, early position with their top 3 of Justyn Knight, Colin Bennie, and Martin Hehir staying in the top 10 the entire race. Knight pulled away to hang with the breakaway pack of Tiernan, Edward Cheserek, and Anthony Rotich.
The Orange were unofficially tied with Colorado at the 8k mark, but in the final 2k the Orange moved up as a couple of the Buffaloes dropped back giving Syracuse an 82-91 victory. Stanford and Oregon finished 3rd and 4th in the team standings, but today was all about the Cuse.
Knight led the Orange with a 4th place finish in a time of 29:46. Bennie was 8th in 29:55 and Hehir was 9th in 29:59. The trio did their part and when Philo Germano and Joel Hubbard picked up 19 spots in the final 2k the title was won. Dan Lennon and Joe Kush were 6th and 7th on the day, but their contributions should not go unnoticed.
This was a complete team effort from the Orange. Knight made a bold move to go with the lead pack and he held on down the stretch as Bennie and Hehir worked together to stay well in front of the Colorado runners, and then the closing 2k from Germano and Hubbard sealed the deal.
The team motto is TCB for Take Care of Business and the Orange certainly took care of their business in Louisville. Congratulations to the program on this tremendous accomplishment.
The Syracuse women entered the race as the 20th-ranked team in the country. As she has all season, Margo Malone (52nd in 20:32) led the Orange over the 6k distance. The women put together their strongest performance of the season, finishing 12th, which is the 2nd-best finish in program history (after the 10th-place finish by the 2010 team). Strong runs from Shaylyn Tuite (55th in 20:33) and Sydney Leiher (68th in 20:38) helped spark the Orange in Louisville. Cassia Hameline (141st in 21:08) and Rebecca Skodis (171st in 21:10) completed the scoring while Stephanie Bitcon (208th in 21:43) and Mary Malone (230th in 22:07) were the Orange's 6th and 7th place runners.
As expected, New Mexico Lobos won the women's race in convincing fashion, scoring 49 points to dominate the field. Colorado was second with 149 points. Notre Dame Fighting Irish star Molly Seidel was the individual winner as she pulled away from Boise State Broncos freshman Allie Ostrander in the final mile to win in a time of 19:28.
This was a great day for the Syracuse Cross-Country program as both the Men and Women delivered their best performances when it mattered most.