As expected the Syracuse Orange men’s cross country team successfully defended their ACC title on Friday. In winning their fourth-straight title, Syracuse showed that they need to be included in the National Championship discussion as the Orange dominated the competition with a score of 29 points to easily win over the Virginia Cavaliers (72 pts) and NC State Wolfpack (82 pts). The Orange’s five scorers finished in the top nine giving the team their most convincing conference win in program history.
Leading the way was Justyn Knight who took the individual title in a time of 22:50. This gives Knight ACC individual titles in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track, which can now be called the “Justyn Knight Hat Trick”. Behind Knight, the Orange found the strong pack running that propelled them last season as the other four scorers were close together. Colin Bennie (5th in 23:12), Iliass Aouani (6th in 23:22), Joel Hubbard (8th in 23:25), and Philo Germano (9th in 23:25) ran strong races in support of Knight as the Orange responded to two “disappointing” meets leading into ACC’s.
I’ve said before that we’re running out of things to say about Justyn Knight, but honestly this season he has taken his racing to another level. In his three wins, Knight has run from behind and this shows an extreme confidence in his ability, as well as his comfort in the race strategy. Knight kept Louisville star Edward Kibichiy in his sights and waited for the right time to make his move (which you’ll see in the highlights below). When a runner can be this patient when facing strong competition, it’s a testament to their trust they have to be able to reach another gear when needed. Knight has also shown great burst at the finish, which should bode well as the men step up to the 10k distance the rest of the way. As Joel Hubbard mentioned in his interview below, it’s scary that Justyn wasn’t sure the race was finishing and was still able to easily shift gears for the win.
This was a very good showing for the Orange, who regain momentum before the NCAA meet. With their trip to Terre Haute secure, the focus now is to stay healthy and as rested as possible.
The Orange women earned a fifth place finish with 184 points. NC State won the women’s title as expected with a score of 53 points, and Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer was the individual champion. Paige Stoner led the way for Syracuse again with a 17th place finish in 20:32. Mary Malone continued to improve her standing on the team finishing in 24th place in 20:45. Rounding out the scoring were McKenzie Altmayer (39th place in 21:07), Madeleine Davison (53rd in 21:26), and Sydney Leiher (60th in 21:34).
Similar to last season, the Orange women aren’t able to keep their top five close enough together in these big meets, which is costing them team positions. The women need to pull together a strong meet at the Northeast Regional to get themselves back to the NCAA Championships on November 11th.