BUFFALO, N.Y. - The St. Bonaventure men's cross country team will kick off the 2013 season on Friday at 6:45 p.m. at the Little Three Invitational, challenging rivals Canisius and Niagara at Delaware Park.
The Bonnies will seek to defeat the Purple Eagles for the second-consecutive year and knock off the hosting Golden Griffins for the first time since 2004. St. Bonaventure hosted last year's invitational at the St. Bonaventure Golf Course and finished in second place, defeating Niagara, 32-7, and losing to Canisius, 35-4.
In his third season, junior Harley Thompson sees the Bonnies' growth through diligent summer training and hard work at preseason training camp.
"I have never been so confident in my team," Thompson said. "We've added more guys and we've worked well together year after year. I think that we really have a chance to win races this year for the first time and hopefully that's what happens."
Thompson also wants to continue the momentum of his strong individual end of the 2012 season. Thompson ran a 28:10 at a challenging Belmont Plateau course in Philadelphia for the Atlantic 10 championships and set a Bonaventure 10k record, running a 33:45 at the NCAA Northeast Regionals in Madison, Conn.
A self-defined slower starter in early season races, Thompson treats every race as an important step towards the Atlantic 10 and NCAA Northeast Regionals championships.
"The way that I've been trained by my coach in high school and into my college career is that the beginning of the season is more training," Thompson said. "My races are training, my speed base and my distance base doesn't come until later when it all comes together at the end of the season."
Junior Nick Masiello led the Brown and White at last year's Little Three Invitational, finishing in fifth place at 16:33. Masiello also led the Bonnies with a 26:53 at the National Catholic Championships; just 6.5 seconds shy of his personal record which is also the second-best 8k time in Bonaventure history.
Masiello, a Grand Island, N.Y., native, values the Little Three rivalry with many of the three teams' runners living in the Buffalo area and in western New York.
"It's always a very competitive race when you're racing against a local school," Masiello said. "It raises the bar and it really makes you want to go out there and show everyone that you're there to compete."
Last season, SBU defeated a team at the Little Three Invitational for the first time since 2004's second place finish ahead of Canisius. The Bonnies men's and women's teams both finished second at the Little Three race for the first time since 2003.
"Even right away, when coach (Bob Macfarlane) took over his first season, the girls were automatically second and I think that raised the bar a little bit for the guys' team," Masiello said. "Now I think we're looking forward to winning our first Little Three (Invitational)."
Captain Terence Petty said the rivalry race motivates runners on all three teams, particularly after the race moved to the first weekend of the season last year. Petty, a senior who redshirted last season, finished in 24th place at the 2010 and 2011 races.
"They're our biggest rivals and usually our first meet of the season," Petty said. "Canisius and Niagara have their fans there cheering and it really adds to the competitive spirit."