Men's XC picked to win NECC

BENNINGTON — The Southern Vermont College men's cross country team has grown accustomed to raising trophies over the last three years, and the 2017 Mountaineer squad plans to continue that success this season as it works to win its fourth-straight New England Collegiate Conference championship.

The conference announced on Monday that coaches from around the league anticipate SVC to once again bring the cup back to Bennington in late October as the Mountaineers were selected to win the title meet with four of the six first-place votes in the preseason poll.

"I expect that the men's team will repeat as NECC Champions," said first-year SVC head coach Jarrett Blankenship. "It would be a disservice to the team to expect anything than last year's performance."

Southern Vermont dominated the league race in 2016 for the three-peat — seeing six runners place themselves in the top 14 to garner All-NECC honors; that included Mountaineers taking the top three finishes and four of the top five.

"The men definitely have their work cut out for them this year," Blankenship continued. "The league has become very competitive with the new addition of teams this season. The men need to get to work early. It's essential that each member willingly do the `small things' that — in turn — can add up to the one big goal."

Two of those top-placing harriers from last year return to the team for Blankenship in 2017: senior Marc Brandmeyer and sophomore Davante Smith. Brandmeyer took first overall to be the 2016 NECC Runner of the Year, and Smith followed at third overall to bring home the NECC Rookie of the Year award.

Brandmeyer's finish last year made him the first athlete on either the men's or the women's side to claim three individual NECC titles. He looks to cap his illustrious career with the perfect fourth while using his experience to help the rest of the team get back on top of the podium.

"Marc sets the standard for the quality of work that is necessary for a repeat conference championship," said Blankenship about Brandmeyer. "It's important to have a senior leader for any team that has high expectations."

Southern Vermont begins the regular season this upcoming Saturday with the annual Mountaineer Invitational on the SVC campus; the men's 5K starts at 11:15 a.m. after the completion of the women's 5K race. The team then turns to inner-state competition for its next two races with the Castleton University Invitational (Sept. 9) and Johnson State College's Badger Invitational (Sept. 16). The Mountaineers follow those with meets hosted by Williams College (Sept. 23), Keene State College (Sept. 30), and Western New England University (Oct. 14). SVC then heads to Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass. for the NECC Championship on October 28.


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