2011 X-C Preview: The MAAC

September 9th, 2011 in Articles by 0 Comments

The start to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s cross-country season was delayed for some schools due to hurricane damage, but all 10 MAAC teams spent the summer logging miles and refueling for the grueling months ahead.

With the Iona men’s program consistently making waves at the national level, the MAAC is steadily building it cross-country reputation, and when the conference meet rolls around on Oct. 28th at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, it could be anybody’s championship.

“Not many people know about the MAAC, but we have a few very solid teams that have made a big impact the last few years,” says Iona Coach Ricardo Santos, whose men’s and women’s team won the MAAC last year and look to duplicate that strong showing in 2011. “It’s really great to see the conference grow the way it has.”

Let’s take a look at some of the MAAC’s top 2011 storylines…

Women’s Teams Poised To Take the Conference:

Iona: Iona won the conference last year, and they could be the favorites this year as they return four of their top five scorers. Key among the returning starters is Heidi Gregson, the 2010 MAAC cross country champion and three-time USTFCCCA All American, and Marion Joly-Testault, who finished fourth at the conference meet.

Canisius: Canisius placed second at the MAAC last year, and they’re the most likely team to usurp last year’s MAAC Champion Iona. Like Iona, Canisius returns four of their five scorers at last year’s conference meet. While Iona has clearly proven its ability to develop its team, Canisius does have the added advantage of returning its sixth runner, current sophomore Jamie Wallace.

“The foundation of the team is under the great leadership of Coach Osmond and Assistant Coach Hoak,” says Christine Mulvihill, a senior who placed second on the team and eighth overall at last year’s conference meet.

“After placing second last year, my team, coach and I know that nothing is impossible and to win the MAAC would definitely be the highlight of my Canisius Cross Country college career,” says Mulvihill.

Wild Card:

Loyola: Loyola College took third at last year’s conference meet, but the 2011 team boasts a solid depth of veterans. Last year, the top five runners finished within 26 seconds of each other. This season, the team returns its second-through-seventh place finishers at conference, a group that was separated by a mere 33 seconds. If the Greyhounds can continue to work off of each other and dominate as a pack, they may be the team to de-throne Iona.

“The women’s team will be the best team Loyola has ever had,” says Coach Richard Woods. “Last season we ended up third in the MAAC conference and 12th in the NCAA mid-east region. This year I expect a conference win and a top-10 finish at regions or better.”

Women To Watch:

Heidi Gregson (Iona): Heidi Gregson placed first overall at the MAAC last season by a solid 24.1 seconds. Her two closest competitors — Maura Frauenhofer of Canisius and Natalie Finnerty of Iona – have graduated, and Gregson looks to sweep the conference again in 2011. “She’ll be back and stronger this year,” says Coach Santos.

Marion Joly-Testault (Iona): Marion Joly-Testault finished fourth at the conference meet as a sophomore last year. During her freshman campaign, Joly-Testault won the MAAC in the indoor 3k. If she can repeat that type of success, she looks to be the conference favorite to dethronew teammate Gregson.

Wild Card:

Kiersten Anderson (Marist): Kiersten Anderson (pictured) finished fifth at the MAAC meet as a freshman in 2010 and went on to take second at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) meet. Her 18:10.3 finish on the 5K course set a program record at Van Cortlandt Park. With a year of collegiate running under her belt, Anderson definitely has a shot at taking the MAAC this year.

“I am excited for the upcoming season…I was unable to run due to an injury this past spring and throughout part of the summer, but I am hoping to still have a good season,” says Anderson.

Our prediction:

… And the 2011 MAAC women’s team champion will be:

Iona!

Men’s Teams Poised To Take the Conference:

Iona: The Iona men took first in the MAAC last year, and were the only team to represent the conference at the NCAA meet, where they placed eighth. This year, they’re poised to take the conference – and the nation – by storm again as they enter the season ranked fifth in the USATFCCCA preseason poll.

“We return many of our runners from last year so we have a good core group to work with,” says Iona coach Ricardo Santos.

Key among the returning starters is now-senior Leonard Korir. Korir, a five-time All American, finished fourth in last year’s NCAA meet, and his resume boasts two national championships.

“The fact that Iona College is in our conference, and they have an incredible history of success in our sport. It could be argued, with merit, that the Iona program is the best overall athletic program in our entire conference,” says Marist Coach Pete Colaizzo.

Marist: “Overall, we return a veteran team on the men’s side,” says coach Colaizzo. Marist finished second at the MAAC meet last year, and they return their top four runners from the conference meet – who placed 7th, 8th, 11th and 13th. If that same synergy can define their program in 2011, they could challenge conference powerhouse Iona.

Wild Card:

Fairfield University: Though Fairfield placed fourth at the conference meet last year, they return all seven of their top runners. Their cumulative time was 1:23 behind third-place school Rider University. Led by now-sophomore Howard Rosas, Fairfield’s more experienced team is looking to improve to a MAAC Championship.

Men To Watch:

Leonard Korir (Iona): Leonard Korir placed first in the MAAC and fourth overall at NCAAs. Not only ready to lead Iona in its quest to top last year’s eighth place NCAA finish, Korir might just add another NCAA championship to his already impressive resume.

“On the men’s side Leonard Korir will be someone to look out for. He was the NCAA Champion in the 5,000 meters indoors and 10,000 meters outdoors; he was also fourth in XC last year,” says Coach Santos.

Mitch Goose (Iona): Mitch Goose placed second at the MAAC last year, earning All-MAAC honors. A grad student, last season was Goose’s first with Iona. More experience should bode well for him as he chases standout teammate Korir.

Wild Card:

Matthew Flint (Marist): Matthew Flint (pictured) finished seventh at the MAAC meet year, a race whose top 10 was dominated by Iona runners. Flint has proven that he can stay with the front pack and keep the pace that the Gaels’ set. He just may be ready to lead it.

Our prediction:

… And the 2011 MAAC men’s team champion will be:

Iona!

Kelly Laffey ran cross country and track at Wake Forest University. A 2010 graduate, she is pursuing a career in journalism. She loves the freedom associated with running and hopes to compete in her first marathon later this year. Contact her here.

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