BENNINGTON >> After the Southern Vermont College men's cross-country team won the New England Collegiate Conference for the second straight season and the women's team placed fourth — a mere two points out of a top two spot — SVC coach Kathleen Newton was looking ahead to Saturday's ECAC championship at Williams College.
"We're familiar with the course, it's got some good hills," Newton said. "It's a challenging course, but we're real excited for it. We're healthy and we've had good workouts. We want to finish the season real strong."
Both teams are led by local runners in Marc Brandmeyer and Shelby Whitman. Each is a Mount Anthony graduate.
On the men's side, the sophomore Brandmeyer set the NECC record with his victory at Westfield Park in the conference championship with a time of 26 minutes, 19 seconds for the 8K, earning the NECC runner of the year award for the second time. Pacing his teammate is junior Justin Ferguson, who was second at the conference championships, 12 seconds behind.
"Those two have been setting the precedent for the rest of the team," Newton said. "They really work together, not trying to outdo each other but use it as a way to push each other. Both are very competitive. They've been getting quicker and quicker this year and they set the bar for the rest of the team."
In seven events this season, Brandmeyer has six top-10 finishes, the win at NECC's and a pair of seconds at the Castleton and Johnson State races. Ferguson won back-to-back-to-back in the first three events and added two runner-up finishes in the Golden Bear Invite and the NECC's.
Past them, the next three runners for the Mountaineers are quickly closing in. Noah Froh, a freshman at Bennington College competing for SVC as part of the athletic consortium, junior Corey Barcomb and senior captain Cameron Michael Curtiss have been swapping the top five team spots all season. At the championships, Froh set a personal record (PR), while Barcomb and Curtiss were within seconds of theirs.
Arlington graduate Aden Fischer also set a PR with a 27th place finish last week, while freshman Isaiah Backels was 19th. Backels will not compete at ECAC's.
"Noah is running much faster than he did in high school. When he came here, he said he hoped he could break [30 minutes] and now he's running [28:16, his time at NECC's]. To see where he is now is amazing."
While the results aren't as gaudy on the women's side, Newton said that nine of the 10 athletes set PR's at the NECC championships.
"They are all really competitive, and they were only two points out of second at the [NECC meet]," Newton said.
The women are led by Whitman, a junior whose PR is 20 minutes, 17 seconds — 10 seconds short of the school record set by Newton herself back in 2002.
"I hope I'm coaching her when she breaks my record," Newton said with a laugh. "Shelby is a great leader, a captain and really leads by her example. It's great to have local kids with ties to Southern Vermont, being successful. It's a great thing for them and for the college."
Whitman has a teammate alongside her, just as the guys. Bennington College sophomore Annika Kristiansen was six seconds back in third at the NECC meet and she's also scored two other top-10 finishes.
"Annika had never run for a team before, so she's had to learn how to be a part of a team," Newton said. "She's been very consistent, just like Shelby."
Other scoring runners have included Bennington College's Isabella Poulos, Emily Lesure and Emily Freling, all of whose PR's are within 30 seconds of each other.
Morgan Arleth, Kaylee Cross, Morgan Kaeppel and Ashley Perrino also have competed for SVC this season but will not attend the ECAC championship.
The men's team was 12th last season out of more than 50 teams, and with 55 scheduled to run this year, it will be interesting to see how the Mountaineers fare.
"We expect to raise the bar and be faster than we were last time at Williams," Newton said. "They will put everything out there. They're up for the challenge and ready to go."
The men's race is a 8K and starts at 11 a.m., while the women's race will be a 6K and will go off at noon.