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Syracuse XC eyes another NCAA title

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Can the Orange triumph in Louisville again?

Cross Country: NCAA Championships
The Orange will look to play spoiler on Saturday
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange cross-country teams will battle for NCAA Championships this Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky. Two years ago the Orange men captured the school’s 2nd NCAA title with their surprising win over the favored Colorado Buffaloes. This year’s Syracuse squad heads into the meet in that underdog role once again as they are among the teams chasing Northern Arizona Lumberjacks and BYU Cougars.

As I’ve mentioned all season. Citius Mag has featured The Wood Report projections and the latest has the Orange finishing a distant 3rd behind BYU and NAU. He also made the case for and against Syracuse winning the title, but I’ll give my own take below.

Seniors Justyn Knight, Colin Bennie and Philo Germano hope to close out their XC careers in style this weekend (and check out the profiles of the seniors done by the Daily Orange). The trio are looking to become the first Syracuse runners to be part of two National Championship teams and their experience will be a big factor in Syracuse’s title hopes. Knight heads into the meet as the individual favorite and he’ll most likely get the Orange started with a top-3 finish.

Bennie’s been in the top 20 the last two years and Syracuse hopes he can crack the top 15 along with Aidan Tooker. Tooker has the potential to do some damage this Saturday and if he and Bennie can keep up with the number 2 and 3 guys from NAU and BYU it will help the Orange immensely.

If Syracuse can get their top 3 guys in with a combined score under 35, they will put the pressure on the favorites. Last year NAU won with 125 points and it’s expected that they and BYU could score under 100 this year. Syracuse will be in position if the 4 and 5 guys are once again able to finish in the top 40. Germano has done this the last two years and the trio of Joe Dragon, Dom Hockenbury and Iliass Aouani have been close behind him the last two meets this year. No one expects that trio to challenge for All-American status but the expected wind and rain on Saturday could lead to some very unexpected results.

In 2015, Syracuse ran hard from the start and put the pressure on Colorado. The early positioning enabled the Orange to hold off the Buffaloes down the stretch. This same strategy might not work this year but I expect to see Knight in the lead pack with Bennie/Tooker posititioning themselves among the next tier while Germano provides the link to the rest of the team. It will take an incredible team effort to win the title, but this Orange group stands a chance.

The Syracuse women don’t share the same title aspirations, but they have a shot at a school-best NCAA finish. The Orange finished 10th in 2010 and this year’s team has Paige Stoner and Shannon Malone looking to become the 2nd and 3rd women to earn top 40 NCAA finishes. If they can both accomplish this, Syracuse could be in position to get that top-10 finsh and end the season on a strong note. Even after her ACC title, Stoner’s still underrated on that national scene and I expect her to cap her Syracuse career with another strong performance.

The women’s team title should come down to New Mexico, Oregon or Colorado, but the experience on Saturday will help the younger Orange runners next season. The women’s race starts at 10:45 on Saturday morning while the men go at 11:45. Online coverage is provided by FloTrack, but you can follow live results online here. If you are in Louisville head over to the meet and join me and others at the Orange Alumni tailgate.