The runners on the Syracuse Orange cross-country teams return to competition in 2016 after the most successful season in school history. While the women will be reloading with youth after a 12th place finish at NCAA’s, the men will look to make school history with consecutive National Championships. Both programs will have to replace valuable four-year contributors at the top, but expectations remain high. The Orange women rank 15th in the USTFCCA Pre-Season Coaches Poll (2nd in the Northeast region) and 19th by FloTrack while the men start the season as the #1 ranked team in the Coaches Poll and the #2 team by FloTrack.
The Orange women will have to replace Margo Malone at the top spot, along with NCAA contributors Shaylyn Tuite, Rebecca Skodis, and Cassia Hameline. Sydney Leiher is the top returner and Syracuse will look to her to guide the young team from the front. Sydney talked about being a leader, and her own goals for the season in this interview with Syracuse Athletics
The women will look for Mary and Shannon Malone, as well as transfer Paige Stoner to lead the group of freshmen joining the squad. Look for Madeleine Davison, McKenzie Altmayer, and Emma Wilson to be contributors right from the start of their careers. Since the women are only moving from 5k to 6k in races, it’s an easier transition for them to make and they can move into scoring positions easier with the Orange’s need this Fall.
While this will be a season of transition for the Orange, there is enough talent for them to be a top 5 team in the ACC and return to the NCAA meet. For the Orange to try and finish in the top 15 again in 2016, they will need a the team to come together quickly. I think this team might not have the talent up front to repeat last year’s NCAA finish, but they might place higher at the ACC meet.
Unlike last year, the Syracuse men won’t be flying under the radar this Fall. The Orange enter the season with a large target on them, but with the motivation that there is a new title to be won. SU will be led by the nation’s best 1-2 combination in Justyn Knight and Colin Bennie. These two finished in the top 10 at the NCAA meet last year and will be called upon to repeat that performance to help the Orange make up for the loss of Martin Hehir. They will be helped by the two other returning All-American runners, Joel Hubbard and Philo Germano. The experience from last year has shown this group what needs to be done, and they seem poised to lead the Orange back to the podium in November
The biggest question facing the Orange men are who will step up to fill the 5-7 spots on the team. Unlike the women, Syracuse will look for experienced runners to fill this need. Incoming transfers Iliass Aouani (Lamar) and Adam Visokay (Virginia) bring previous NCAA experience, and the Orange will also get a boost from Adam Palamar, who excelled on the track last season. Joining this group will be runners like Mickey Burke and Kevin James, both of whom have a lot of potential and will be given the opportunity to earn a top 7 spot.
Finding the depth will be necessary as Syracuse looks to hold off the challenges of Colorado, Oregon, and FloTrack’s pre-season favorite Stanford. The Orange are the strongest team in the top 4, but their title chances hinge on finding a solid 5th runner in November. Can someone step in like Hubbard and Germano did last year? If so, Syracuse should capture another title....but it won’t be easy.
Syracuse begins the season this Saturday at Colgate. We likely won’t see the full Syracuse line-up until the end of September, so it will be interesting to see how the teams stack up at Virginia and Wisconsin leading up to the ACC Championships.
We will be running the “Get to Know Your Orange Runner” profiles over the next couple of weeks to introduce to this year’s key contributors, so be sure to look for those as well as ongoing coverage of the 2016 XC season.