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2021 Syracuse cross-country season preview

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Can the Orange return to the top of the ACC?

Cross Country: NCAA Division I Championships Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 Syracuse Orange cross-country season officially began over the weekend when the Orange won the Harry Lang Invitational. However with both teams holding out most of their top runners we won’t get a good sense of Syracuse’s top group until later this month.

As always we start with the women and Syracuse enters 2021 with an influx of experienced transfer runners joining Amanda Vestri. Outside of a disappointing finish in the heat and humidity at the NCAA XC Championships, Vestri delivered a strong 2020-21 campaign with a 2nd place ACC XC finish followed by a 10th place NCAA 10k finish outdoors. She’s emerged as one of the best women’s distance runners in the conference and Syracuse is hoping to surround her with more depth.

Holly Bent was 43rd at the 2019 NCAA XC Champs as a member of the Colorado Buffaloes. Annie Boos brings three years of experience as a member of Cal’s top seven. Sophia Jacobs-Townsley was 4th at the Patriot League XC championships last spring while running for Boston University, Shona McCullough appeared in two NCAA XC Championships while at the University of Washington and Emily Lane raced in one NCAA XC meet while at Furman. These transfers join a young Orange squad hoping to get back to the NCAA meet as a team.

Syracuse will need Sarah Connelly, Savannah Roark, Justus Holden-Betts and Emily Nugent to take a step forward in their second years and hope Laura Dickinson can recover from injury and regain the form that saw her finish 11th at the ACC XC champs in 2018. Freshmen Sage Brooks, Sydney Nowicki, Juliette Keller

At Saturday’s Harry Lang Invite, the Orange were led by Olivia Joly (2nd), Nugent (3rd), Maddie Heintz (4th), Siobhan O’Keefe (5th), Bethany Steiner (6th) and Caroline Kirby (7th). We’ll keep an eye on this roster to see who emerges as the top seven before the ACC Championships where Syracuse was 8th last Fall.

The Syracuse men bring back a lot of experience as they look to rebound from a disappointing 6th place ACC finish in 2020. This was the first time since joining the conference that the Orange have finished outside the top two and they will face improved competition as they try to reclaim their spot at the top. The men have added their own transfers to the mix as Brody Smith joins the Orange from Purdue and Jack Whetstone from Emory.

Nearly everyone else returns from last year’s squad so JP Trojan, Joe Dragon and Nathan Henderson will be once again looked to lead the Orange. If Aidan Tooker continues to return to form as he showed in the outdoor season that’s a huge boost to the Orange and there will be a lot of competition for the top 7 on the men’s side. This is a Syracuse team with a lot of depth and runners like Noah Beveridge, Alex Comerford, Matt Scrape, Silas Derfel, Kevin Robertson, Steve Schulz as well as Sam and Nate Lawler will be pushing the seniors.

We don’t expect to see incoming freshmen Kamari Miller, Gavin Richards, Gabe Planty and Patrick Malone this fall but Miller was one of the nation’s best runners last year and is one to keep a close eye on moving forward. For the men last weekend, Robertson led an Orange sweep with Ethan Wechsler, Whetstone, Nate Lawler and Matt Dragon behind him.

We’ll see more Orange runners this Friday at Penn State but the top runners will likely debut in Boston at the end of the month. Syracuse will split their squad in October to go to Penn State and Wisconsin before the ACC Championships in South Bend. Keep it here to Nunes Magician as we keep you updated on the cross-country season.