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Justyn Knight wins in his 2017 XC debut

In his first race of the season Justyn Knight defends his Wisconsin Invitational title

Brian Vasey

The Syracuse Orange faced a deep and talented field at the Wisconsin Invitational last Friday. Justyn Knight made his 2017 debut in winning fashion as he out-kicked Stanford Cardinal Grant Fisher in the final stretch to win his second consecutive individual title at Wisconsin.

In his first XC race of the season, Justyn looked poised as he waited for the right time to move to the front. It’s likely that we will see those guys duel again in Louisville next month.

Defending NCAA champions the Northern Arizona Jackrabbits dominated the deep field posting a score of 50 points to take the team victory. NAU’s top three runners finshed 3-4-5 as they cruised to an unexpectedly easy win. Portland was second with 123 points while Syracuse grabbed 3rd place with 151 points. NAU establishes themselves as the team to beat with the BYU Cougars who won at the Pre-Nationals on Saturday as their closest challenger right now.

The Orange might be disappointed with the team finish, but there were still positives beyond Knight’s win. Aidan Tooker finished 10th and continues his strong start to his sophomore season. Seniors Colin Bennie (14th) and Philo Germano (31st) were the Orange’s third and fourth runners, but it was a huge gap between them and Joe Dragon in 95th place that cost Syracuse second place. Kevin James (191st) and Noah Affolder (217) were the other Orange competitors in the Championship Race. This was Affolder’s Syracuse debut and the fact he was entered means the coaching staff has confidence in his ability to help the Orange this season.

Syracuse is going to need someone from the Dragon/James/Affolder/Dom Hockenbury (13th in the Open race on Friday) group to emerge. With Iliass Aouani out of the line-up the Orange are going to need a stronger performance from the 5th spot to contend for a podium spot in Louisville. The good news for Syracuse is that Bennie and Germano have been better at the 10k distance in their career and their experience combined with the emergence of Tooker gives the Orange a shot in November.

The Orange women ended up 18th in the team competition. Syracuse responded to the level of competiton with their best performance of the season so far. Paige Stoner led the way with a 24th place finsh while Shannon Malone was 46th. The other Syracuse finishers were were Rachel Bonner (92nd), Madeleine Davidson (123rd), and Eva Scott (203rd) and Chelsie Pennello (218th)

#nuttyinvite #grit #tcb

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Syracuse was the 2nd ACC team at Wisconsin and find themselves in contention for a top 3 conference finish in two weeks. The women are also searching for better performances from their 4th and 5th runners if they want to grab that 2nd automatic qualifier from the Northeast Regional. Providence is well ahead of the rest of the region, but Syracuse has the ability to get themselves back to the NCAA Championships.

Syracuse will now prepare for the ACC Championships on October 27th in Louisville.