BENNINGTON >> Receiving six of the eight possible first-place votes, the Southern Vermont College men's cross country team was selected to win its third straight New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship as announced Monday through the league's preseason poll.
SVC fourth-year head coach Kathleen Newton entered the preseason with high hopes for her crew, thinking that her men's side can be even more dominant in the league's title meet than it was in 2015.
"Expectations for this year are to be even better than we were last season," Newton commented. "We have a core of seasoned runners returning who made big impacts on our team a year ago. With the addition of four new team members, we will be stronger than ever."
The 2016 Southern Vermont team is evenly split between returners and newcomers with the Mountaineers' roster ranging across all class years. Among those coming back for Newton is junior Marc Brandmeyer who has captured the NECC Runner of the Year honor at each of the last two title meets, being the only male runner to ever win the Conference's top laurel for a second time; in 2015, he set a new NECC Championship record as he crossed the line at 26:19.
Additional returners include seniors Corey Barcomb and Aden Fischer who finished seventh and 27th at last year's Championship, respectively. Bennington College sophomore Noah Froh, who crossed the line at the title meet in fifth place after being named the NECC Rookie of the Week twice in 2015, also comes back to resume his collegiate career. Newton brings in four new harriers to the program who will all look to make an immediate impact for Southern Vermont.
"This team enjoys working hard and pushing one another," Newton continued. "In workouts, they key off each other and want everyone to do their best. It is a highly-competitive group, and their drive and determination forces each of them to do their best. We look forward to setting new personal bests-- both in meet scores and our top 10 all-time record list. This is a special group, and we look forward to a great cross country season."
Southern Vermont won both the Castleton State Invitational and the Johnson State Invitational early in the season last year before going on to claim its second straight Conference crown. The Mountaineers had a stellar showing in the NECC Championship meet, notching 27 team points to top a second-place Regis College squad that finished with 42 points. SVC had four runners place in the top 10 to land on All-NECC teams and six total finish in the top 20.
Newton believes that the only thing that might prevent SVC from hoisting the trophy once again will be the runners staying away from injury. "The biggest obstacle to me — as a coach — is keeping everyone healthy," she said. "We need to continue to do all the right things to stay that way; it is a good group in that respect. They look out for each other, and they depend on each other to be successful. Other than that — being positive, focused and passionate about our sport is what we are putting our energy into."
"We will continue to train hard and put forth our best effort," Newton continued. "We will do this as a team — supporting and encouraging each other every step of the way. They know how important each of them are to the team and how the team depends on all of them to be successful. They are a great group of guys to coach, and we are looking forward to a stellar cross country season."
SVC begins its 2016 campaign with the annual Mountaineer Invitational on the Southern Vermont campus, the men running a shortened 5,000 meter race that is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. The NECC title meet is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29 at Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass.
The Mountaineers edged Regis, a squad that received the additional two first-place tallies, by five points for the top spot in the poll.