Oct. 31, 2014
WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army men’s cross country team will open up postseason competition on Saturday, traveling to Bethlehem, Pa., for the Patriot League Championships, hosted by Lehigh University.
The Black Knights are coming off of two weeks of rest with their last competition coming on Oct. 18 when they dropped a dual meet with service academy rival Navy.
Army will be in the hunt for its first Patriot League title since 2008, when they tied with Navy for the crown. The team has finished in the top five in each year of the Patriot League Championships, claiming victories in 2008, 2001, 2000, 1996, 1995, 1994 and 1993.
“This is my first Patriot League Championships, so I’m familiar with teams, but not familiar with teams. I know the names, but I haven’t seen their personnel, other than the Navy team and when we raced Lehigh at Lehigh,” head coach Mike Smith said. “I think if you look at the way the meet might shape up, we have a chance to be in the top four. We could be better than that if we get our depth to run as close as possible to our leaders. We had a good race at the Paul Short Run, where we had 37 seconds between our first and our fifth runners. If we run like that then we’ll be very competitive.”
The Black Knights have faced only a handful of Patriot League teams this season, including Navy and Lehigh. The team fell to the Midshipmen 16-47 in the annual Star Meet, and squared off against Lehigh at the Paul Short Run.
“I think Navy is clearly the class of the field,” Smith added. “They showed that in our dual meet and they beat us at Paul Short as well. I would put them at the top of the leaderboard and then it’s a toss up after that. If our guys run the way that they’re capable of running, we’ll be very competitive. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t, they look like they could, but they’re not machines. We’ll turn them on and hope that the machine does what it’s supposed to do, but ultimately they’re going to have to race the way that they’ve trained. They’ve trained fairly well recently, so I would expect us to be pretty competitive, for sure in the top half and hopefully higher than that.”
Army lost its top three returners from last year’s championships in Kendall Ward, Ricardo Galindo and Joshua Ecker. The team’s top returner is Cody Barger, who finished 20th overall and fourth for the team in 2013. Matthew Bearden and Tom Girardot took 28th and 29th for last year’s squad.