For the St. Bonaventure cross country program, there's much to be excited about as the 2017 season begins.
Both the men's and women's teams boast 20 runners, with the men's team in particular having a strong foundation set for the future with a very young group.
Sophomore William Delaney was the team's top performer last season, leading the team in every event during his debut campaign in Brown and White. The New Jersey native was impressive throughout the year, setting a 5K PR time of 16:29 and 8K mark of 26:48 in 2016.
While Delaney figures to lead the team again this fall, there's a new crop of freshmen who are helping push him this preseason in workouts.
"Will should be our leader, he had a good summer and has been having a strong preseason so far," St. Bonaventure head coach Bob MacFarlane said. "We're looking for him to become even stronger for us this year. We've brought in some freshmen who are pushing him and making him an even better runner."
"We feel we have a really strong freshman class; probably the strongest freshman class we've had since I've been here," MacFarlane said. "Will was a great addition last year and to bring in several more guys like that this year is huge."
Also in the freshman class is England native Joseph Blakeley, who will run cross country during the fall before playing for the Bonnies tennis team in the spring. Isaiah Callahan (Lynbrook, N.Y.), Ryan Chmiel (East Amherst), Luke Gobel (Ballston Spa, N.Y.), Daniel Janak (Boston, N.Y.) and Jacob Osswald (Buffalo) complete the large and talented freshman class.
On the veteran side of things, along with the captains also returning are senior Matthew Bacher, juniors Drew Bille, Christian Gravius, George Laraia and Ryan Signorino. Back for their second seasons along with Delaney are sophomores Kyle Haller, Donavan Lowe and Mark Vaccaro.
The group runs under the leadership of MacFarlane along with assistant coach Kady Weisner who works closely with the men's team. A former runner for MacFarlane as a Bonnies undergrad, Weisner owns the second-fastest 5K and 6K time in the history of the women's program.
"Levi should be in the top seven, he's such a hard worker and has improved so much. I'm looking for Drew to take a step up this year; he has the physical tools to take the next step," MacFarlane said. "Our whole team, we are looking for all 20 to become productive. They just have to understand to do what they've been taught to do. Our juniors and sophomores, those kids now know what they can do."
Last year, Bille was a frequent scorer at meets for the team, often finishing in the top three on the squad. Bacher finished in the scoring three times while Haller, Laraia and Vaccaro each frequently ran in the team's top seven. Malone finished top five for the team three times, including fourth at the Northeast Regionals to conclude the season.
With so many members of the team – especially the number of new faces – there's a lot to learn about the Bonnies in the early meets of the year.
"We're so young," MacFarlane emphasized. "These kids have all had some success, they've come from some very good programs. We're looking to see where everyone is at when the season begins."
The first test for the Bonnies is the Little Three Championship at Old Fort Niagara State Park on Saturday, Sept. 2.
"We have some good young talent and we will have to see how they run out of the gate," MacFarlane said. "We want to see where we are at in comparison to those two teams. More than anything we want to be competitive and get a strong start to the season."
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