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Syracuse cross-country confident and focused heading into ACC Championships

Both teams have moved beyond the last race and look forward to Friday

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

The Syracuse Orange cross-country teams enter the championship portion of their season on Friday. The 2019 ACC Cross-Country Championships will be hosted by the Virginia Tech Hokies and both Syracuse squads seem ready to take on the challenge awaiting them.

The Syracuse women haven’t won an ACC title and despite the defending champion N.C. State Wolfpack entering the meet as heavy favorites, the Orange aren’t ready to concede that top spot. Senior Madeleine Davison said that the athletes shouldn’t treat this race any differently but having a smaller field does help.

“It’s no different than any other race where you just try to stick with who you train with, work together and do the best you can to keep passing people throughout....It (ACC’s) tends to be a little bit more clear where you are in relation to where the coaches would like you to finish and where you want to finish.”- Madeleine Davison

Syracuse is coming off a disappointing race at Wisconsin but Junior Rachel Bonner said the team hasn’t let that impact their focus and confidence heading into Friday’s race. She said the team came back from that race and had two strong weeks of training and that they are keying off the favored Wolfpack

“That’s who we have in mind. We have a lot of experience racing them so we know how they fall but we also have to know to run our own race too. We are keeping our eyes up to where they are at”- Rachel Bonner

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Predictions show that the Orange are going to need to put together a strong race to finish in the top three teams. With a potential top five individual finisher in Amanda Vestri, Syracuse can earn some key NCAA at-large points even if they aren’t able to knock off the Wolfpack. Individually the race should come down to NC State’s Ely Henes and Notre Dame’s Anna Roher. While she hasn’t raced this season Louisville Cardinals standout Dorcas Wasike would also be a favorite if she competes.

The Syracuse men have circled this race for an entire year. After losing the ACC title for the first time in 2018 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Orange are motivated to ascend back to the top of the podium.

“It’s been just a countdown. We’ve really just been waiting for this day. We just want it back....I’ve thought about it every day and this is why we do it”- Joe Dragon

It’s not just the Irish that Syracuse will be looking to defeat on Friday. Projections show that there are realistic title chances for six teams this year and it shapes up to be the deepest ACC championship since Syracuse joined the conference. You have the defending champion Irish who have Yared Nuguse leading the way while the Virginia Tech Hokies enjoy the home course advantage with defending champion Peter Seufer at the front of their pack. One projection model favors the Virginia Cavaliers but looking at 8k times this season would put the Florida State Seminoles as the team to beat. NC State’s men have a talented top five but they had three athletes who didn’t finish at Wisconsin leaving questions about their health heading into this meet.

Dragon said he believes the Orange are the best team if they run their race. He said the meet size should allow the Syracuse runners to not get caught up in the race tactics of others as they will have time and opportunity to work towards their spots and he added the team has moved on from the Madison disappointment.

“We had a tough one in Wisconsin but I don’t think it took too much positivity away. We had two really good workouts this week so we I think we’re looking forward to it.”

I think the men’s team competition will be decided by the 3rd through 7th runners on each team. Every spot is going to be important and the points that the 6th and 7th runners can take from other teams will likely decide who wins the race. I think the Hokies have an edge being at home while the Seminoles and Irish have the advantage through the top 3 runners, but this will be a race where Syracuse’s depth can play a huge role. We’ll see if they can deliver when it matters and bring another ACC title back to Central New York.

The Men’s 8k race will start at 10:01 am (Eastern) on Friday morning with the Women’s 6k race to follow at 11:01 am . Both races will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra so slide the spreadsheets over to the secondary monitor and watch what should be some outstanding racing.