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Syracuse Cross Country faces big test at Nuttycombe Invitational

A loaded field waits for Syracuse in the final tune-up before the ACC Championships

Justyn Knight, Colin Bennie, and Joel Hubbard look to lead the Orange to a 3rd straight title in Madison
Brian Vasey

When the Syracuse Orange cross-country teams take to the course in Madison Wisconsin on Friday they will have different goals. The men are looking for their 3rd-straight team title, while the women have an opportunity to strengthen their NCAA resume.

A simple breakdown of the way NCAA XC qualifying works is that two teams from each of the nine regions qualify automatically from the regional meet. The remaining 13 at-large teams are then selected based upon wins over the automatic qualifiers or head-to-head against other teams under consideration. What this means is that Friday’s meet is a great opportunity for the women’s team to earn valuable points. 19 of the top 25 women’s squads are entered in the meet, including three from the same Northeast region as Syracuse- Providence, Harvard, and Yale. A strong showing from the Orange this week can put them in a good position heading into the championship portion of the season.

This meet will also provide a good experience for the talented freshmen who have been among the Orange’s scorers this year. Madeleine Davison, McKenzie Altmayer, and Emma Wilson will get to face many of the best runners in the country. They can gain a lot from facing this competition, especially since the Orange will be in a tough battle in the Northeast regional. It will be interesting to see how they respond on Friday.

The Syracuse men have used the Wisconsin meet to send notice to the rest of the country. In 2014, the Orange’s win showed that the program was ready to be considered among the nation’s best. Last year’s dominating win let everyone know that Syracuse was ready to be a title contender. This year’s squad doesn’t need to make any statement, but this is an opportunity to build momentum heading into the ACC Championships.

Syracuse will face 15 of the top 25, including 7 of the current top 10 in the country ( BYU, Stanford, Iona, Northern Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgetown). These are teams that the Orange will be battling in Terre Haute in November so this is a good measuring stick of where the team stands. This meet comes as the Orange wrap up their biggest training block of the season so we’ll be watching for improvements from the results at Virginia. Last year, Justyn Knight, Colin Bennie, and Martin Hehir all finished in the top-10 in a preview of what they would do later in the season at Nationals. I wouldn’t look for a repeat this year with a deeper field, but it’s more important to see where the Orange’s 3-7 runners place. This is the time where runners can make a case to be included in the line-ups the rest of the way.

FloTrack will have live coverage on their website (this requires a subscription). The women’s Championship race is 12:30 central and the Men’s race will start at 1:20. We’ll have a full recap over the weekend.