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Somerset, NJ -- Two-time defending champion Quinnipiac has been chosen as the preseason favorite to win the 2008 Northeast Conference men's cross country championship, according to a poll of the league's head coaches. Garnering eight first-place votes, the Bobcats enter the 2008 season as overwhelming favorites to repeat. Monmouth received one first-place vote, edging out Sacred Heart and Mount St. Mary's, both of which picked up a first-place vote of their own. Saint Francis (PA) was projected as the conference's fifth place team, followed by Wagner, Central Connecticut State and Robert Morris. Coming in ninth was Fairleigh Dickinson, while Long Island and St. Francis (NY) round out the field of eleven.
Quinnipiac enters the 2008 season with hopes of capturing its third NEC title in a row and fourth in five years. The Bobcats, under the direction of four-time NEC Coach of the Year Ed O'Connor, will be tested this season after losing 2007 NEC individual champion Jacob Gurzler, along with Keith Bushey, who was the second-place finisher at the championship meet. However, Quinnipiac returns a talented mix of harriers, including junior Tyler Dinnan (Juneau, AK/Juneau-Douglas) who is back in the fold after placing ninth overall last year with a time of 26:54.2, earning himself a spot on the all-conference team. Dinnan was also the Bobcats' top finisher at the NCAA Division I Northeast Regional. Dan Martin (Commack, NY/Commack) returns for his senior campaign after landing 16th overall at the NEC event a year ago. Senior Nicholas Rezendes (Ledyard, CT/ Ledyard) snagged the twentieth spot on the circuit after crossing the tape in 27:21.9 as a junior.
2008 Northeast Conference
Men's Cross Country
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Quinnipiac (8)
2. Monmouth (1)
3. Sacred Heart (1)
4. Mount St. Mary's (1)
5. Saint Francis (PA)
7. Central Connecticut State
8. Robert Morris
9. Fairleigh Dickinson
10. Long Island
St. Francis (NY)
First place votes in parentheses
As runner-up for the second consecutive year in 2007, Monmouth embarks on the 2008 season hungry for its first-ever league title behind 14th-year head coach Joe Compagni. Despite losing two top-fifteen NEC finishers in Matt Caporaso and Randy Hadzor, the Hawks have a plethora of young talent waiting in the wings with 19 freshman on the roster. Monmouth's first-place finisher a year ago (eighth in NEC), Peter Forgach (Long Branch, NJ/Red Bank Catholic), returns for his junior campaign. Forgach's time of 26:51.3 at the NEC event earned him a spot on the all-league team. Other returnees include senior Jeff Cody (Holmdel, NJ/Holmdel) and sophomore Ben Hutterer (Saxonburg, PA/Knoch).
Entering his 15th year as head coach, Christian Morrison and the Pioneers of Sacred Heart stand poised to challenge for the conference crown after losing only one runner to graduation. All-NEC honoree John Kenworthy (Gloversville, NY/Gloversville) is back for his senior campaign after garnering a 2007 Athlete of the Week nod and finishing fifth overall (first on the team) at the league event with a time of 26:30.2. Fellow senior all-leaguer David Jones (Ballston Lake, NY/Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) will enter 2008 after recording a 27:00.7 time, good for 12th in the conference. Other top-finishing harriers back in action include senior Luis German (Southampton, NY/Southampton) and juniors Ryan Murdoch (Niantic, CT/East Lyme) and Brendan Rickert (Danbury, CT/Danbury).
Third-year head coach Jay Phillips hopes to lead Mount St. Mary's to its first NEC title since 1998. After placing fourth a year ago, the Mount will look to all-league senior Matthew Logie (Germantown, MD/Northwest) for leadership. Last year, Logie captured seventh place overall and was the Mount's top finisher after recording a time of 26:42.5. Fellow seniors Morgan Sowell (Frederick, MD/Frederick) and Justin Brackett (Point Pleasant, NJ/Toms River North) are back in the fold after ending their junior campaigns placing second and third on the team, respectively, in last year's league championship meet.
Looking to regain the title for the first time since 2005, Saint Francis (PA) and second-year head coach Felix Moreno will strive to do so without the talent of the club's lead finisher (sixth overall) and all-NEC team member John Balouris, as well as David Holliday, who finished second for the Red Flash at the 2007 league event. Looking to fill those voids is three-time NEC Rookie of the Week Timothy Wertner (Chambersburg, PA/Greencastle-Antrim). Wertner returns for his sophomore campaign after rounding out the team's top-five with a time of 28:00.9 a year ago. Also back are junior Christopher Behre (Flanders, NJ/Mount Olive) and sophomore Brent Digiorgio (Armagh, PA/United High School).
Entering his 13th year as head coach at Wagner, Joe Stasi will seek to improve upon last year's sixth place NEC finish. Although the Seahawks' top harrier (fourth in NEC) and all-league team member Mouhamed Halwani has graduated, a talented squad remains. Sophomore Derek Rammelkamp (Miller Place, NY/Miller Place) ended his freshman season as the 2007 Rookie of the Year and as the team's second-place finisher (19th overall) at the NEC Championships. Brian Halling (Amherst, NH/Souhegan) returns for his senior campaign after securing the Seahawks' third-best finish at the league event a year ago. Other returnees include junior James Johnston (Middle Island, NY/Longwood) and sophomore Thomas Rammelkamp (Miller Place, NY/Miller Place).
Looking to improve upon last year's mark under the tutelage of eighth-year head coach George Kawecki, Central Connecticut State returns junior Ry Sanderson (Bantam, CT/The Forman School), who took the team's second place spot at the conference meet a year ago. Sanderson was also named NEC Athlete of the Week after being the first of 19 NEC runners to cross the tape at the New England Championships in a field that featured 43 schools and 291 harriers.
Robert Morris will look to ninth-year head coach Michael Smith to guide them to a successful season after losing all-leaguer Phillips Thomson and Kevin Forsythe. The Colonials will return a youthful squad of harriers with only two returning sophomores and nine freshmen. Ryan Long (Glen Mills, PA/Penncrest) posted the club's fifth-best finish as a rookie in 2007. Malcolm Muhammad (Verona, PA/Penn Hills) also returns for his sophomore campaign.
Fairleigh Dickinson and Sharlene Milwood-Lee, now in her sixth season as head coach, enter 2008 bringing back juniors Jonathan Chelimo (Kabarnet, Kenya/Western) and Yavuz Inanli (Cincinnati, OH/Sycamore). Chelimo and Inanli were the Knights' third and fourth-place finishers at the NEC event last year.
The Blackbirds of Long Island begin 2008 with head coach Julia Sandiford taking the reigns for her ninth season. Long Island's top finisher from the 2007 championship meet was Dan Renahan (Coram, NY/Newfield), who returns for his junior campaign. Renahan crossed the tape in 27:09.3, landing him 18th in the conference. Also returning is senior Sheldon Goffe (Brooklyn, NY/Erasmus Hall), who took the team's third spot last year.
In only his second year as head coach at St. Francis (NY), Kyle Brown returns the Terriers' top runner from 2007, John Paul Montes (Brooklyn, NY/Xaverian High School), for his senior season. Montes crossed the tape at the league championship with a time of 28:17.4. Other top returnees include junior Sean Lynch (Staten Island, NY/ St. Peter's) and sophomore Vincent Gangemi (Staten Island, NY/ St. Peter's), who placed second and third on the team a year ago.
The 2008 NEC Men's Cross Country Championships will take place on November 1 at Holmdel Park in Holmdel, NJ. Monmouth will serve as meet host.