Last week Syracuse Orange standout Joe Dragon told me in a very calm matter of fact manner that he believed Syracuse “was the best team in the ACC.” On Friday morning in Blacksburg, Virginia Dragon and his teammates went out and backed up that claim by winning their 6th ACC title in the last seven years.
The depth of the Syracuse roster was on display as the team rallied in the final 2k of the 8k race to secure a narrow 68-73 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Virginia Tech Hokies’ star Peter Seufer led from the gun as he defended both his home course and his ACC individual title. Syracuse found themselves in 3rd place at the mile and 4k splits. Dragon and Nathan Henderson were in the top 10 with Kevin James close behind while the rest of the team were a bit further in the pack.
At the 6k split Syracuse and Notre Dame were deadlocked but with two Irish runners in the top 5 they enjoyed an edge. Last year the Irish were the stronger team over the final 2k at Franklin Park as they ended the Orange’s title run. On Friday morning, it was Syracuse that was better down the stretch as Henderson finished 9th, Dragon right behind in 10th. Noah Beveridge and Nathan Lawler moved up to 15th and 16th, James held onto 18th place and Dom Hockenbury closed in 19th. The time between the 1st and 6th runners was only 14 seconds so despite Notre Dame being stronger at the top, the Orange depth made the difference and it was the type of performance we’ve seen before from the Syracuse XC teams.
One of the other points Dragon made last week was about the Orange being patient and running their race. At the mile Hockenbury (58th) and Lawler (69th- nice) were in the back half of the field but they worked their way up to top 20 finishes which shows not only patience but confidence in their training and race plan. Of the nine Syracuse runners who competed today, only two are seniors while Notre Dame will return their top five so these two teams are setting up for another battle next year as well.
In the women’s race, the expected duel between NC State’s Ely Henes and Anna Rohrer of Notre Dame never materialized. Henes led from the start and was unchallenged as she took the individual title and led the Wolfpack to a successful defense of their team championship. The Wolfpack were 12 points ahead of the Florida State Seminoles then Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Syracuse held off the Wake Forest Demon Deacons for 5th as the Orange women bounced back from their disappointment at Wisconsin.
Amanda Vestri led the way with a 9th place finish in a time of 21:03 for the 6k course. Rachel Bonner was 16th (21:16), Jordan Jacob placed 28th (21:38), Kelsey Potts was 52nd (22:05) and Madeleine Davison completed the scoring with a 54th place finish (22:08).
The Syracuse women had to overcome the absence of Laura Dickinson in their line-up and while that kept them from competing for a spot in the top three teams, the Orange battled with Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College throughout the entire race. Holding off the Eagles could be significant for Syracuse’s NCAA hopes as the teams will face off at the Northeast Regional in two weeks. As we’ve said all year the goal for the program was to get both squads to the NCAA Championships later this month and the women can make this happen with another strong showing at Regionals.
We’ll have more on the teams as we lead up to the Northeast Regional in Buffalo so keep an eye out for our continued cross-country coverage.