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Syracuse XC Preview: Meet your 22nd-ranked Orange women

Despite the loss of ACC Champ Paige Stoner, Syracuse might have a deeper squad in 2018

FloSports: FloTrack ACC XC Championships Matt Lunsford-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year again everyone. The morning air’s a bit cooler and your mind starts to wander to thoughts of fabulous Fall afternoons spent watching the NCAA’s most majestic sport.....cross country.

For the Syracuse Orange the 2018 season is all about transition. Head Coach Chris Fox has moved on to the professional ranks. Last year’s ACC Indvidual Champions Justyn Knight and Paige Stoner have exhausted their cross-country eligibility (Paige will be back for track) so new leaders will have to emerge. I’m breaking this preview into two parts, women first..

The Syracuse women will start the 2018 season as the 22nd-ranked team in the country by the coaches. They are also the 2nd-ranked team in the Northeast region behind the Providence Friars. If the Orange can hold that position at the Regional meet in November they would return to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.

To accomplish this Syracuse will need to find a way to cover for the loss of Paige Stoner, the 2017 ACC Champion. Stoner turned in the best season for a Syracuse women’s distance runner and the good news for the Orange is that she’ll be around to train with the team as she prepares for her final track seasons. Having her in the workouts should provide an opportunity for the other runners to be pushed.

Shannon Malone had a strong 2017 campaign and looks to be the one who should step into the #1 slot. Malone was 7th at the ACC meet and 3rd in the Northeast Regional and the Orange are counting on her repeating those performances in 2018. Mary Malone hopes to return from injury to join her sister at the front of the Syracuse pack while Madeleine Davison will be hoping for a breakthrough in her 3rd season for the Orange.

The Syracuse women will be looking for a number of athletes to step into bigger roles this year and the likely candidates are Laura Dickinson, Rachel Bonner, Emma Wilson and Julien Webster might be the ones most ready to do so. Dickinson joined the Orange in January and finished 9th in the ACC 3k steeplechase during outdoor. Her international XC experience could be a boost to the team this Fall. Bonner was in the top 5 for the Orange last year while Wilson was a top 7 runner back in 2016. Webster finished 9th in her only meet in 2017 and showed the potential to be a lead runner for the Syracuse women.

Syracuse will watch to see if returners from the NCAA squad Eva Scott and Maggie Toczko, and redshirt freshman Olivia Elston can provide the depth needed for a successful season. Newcomers Melissa Lodge (grad transfer from Bryant) and freshmen Olivia Beckner (Virginia) and Eleanor Lawler (Rhode Island) will also be pushing for top-7 spots.

Right now the Orange look to be chasing the N.C. State Wolfpack in the ACC but if the younger runners can develop quickly we could see Syracuse surprise some people this Fall.

Syracuse opens the 2018 season this Saturday at Colgate and will quickly follow that with a meet on Friday September 7th at Penn State. These early meets will give us some idea of how the squad is shaping up this season.