ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – When the St. Bonaventure cross country teams begin their season Aug. 30 at the Little Three Championship, they will do so with a host of returners set to race in one of the best and most challenging schedules in program history.
Both teams head for Buffalo for the annual Little Three race against Canisius and Niagara Friday, Aug. 30.
The Bona men's squad returns 15 student-athletes with collegiate experience while the women's team boasts 19 returning runners.
"A lot of the sophomores and juniors have really stepped up," head coach Bob MacFarlane said. "We're extremely happy with the preparation level of the teams across the board over the summer and what we've seen in preseason. They've really upped their game collectively."
On the men's side, MacFarlane and assistant coach Sarah Lonzi expect nine to 10 runners to challenge to be in the team's top five at events throughout the year.
Delaney leads the way after setting the program 5K record of 15:53 in last year's Little Three Championship where the Bonnies finished second. He also owns the program's third-fastest individual 8K time, set last year at 26:37.
Junior Ryan Chmiel finished in the team's top three four times a year ago and another senior, Kyle Haller was a frequent scorer for the team last season. Chmiel is eighth on the SBU 5K lists at 16:36 after his run last year in the season-opening meet.
Nathan Prisella also enters his junior year and was one of the team's top runners last year, finishing second for the squad at the Atlantic 10 Championship while posting top-10 program times in the 5K (16:42, 10th) and 8K (27:09, 10th).
The team also brings back upperclassmen in Luke Gobel, Daniel Janak, Jack Boltman, Ryan Signorino, Mark Vaccaro, Jacob Osswald and Isaiah Callahan who all have multiple seasons of experience in the program. Both Boltman and Osswald dealt with health and injury issues last year, but are healthy this fall and are expected to post strong times throughout the season.
Several young runners made quick impressions last fall.
Sophomore Logan Caruso became the first men's runner in program history to earn multiple Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors, doing so twice and scoring for the team in every cross country event in his debut season. His effort of 16:22 in last year's Little Three stands fourth among all individual 5K times in program history.
Also in the sophomore class, John Pullano improved throughout his first season with the program. Elias Kott ran in four events during the fall before starring in the spring during the track season. Matt Villanueva also is back for his second season.
In all, the men's team loses just one runner who competed at the A-10 championship a year ago as Delaney, Prisella, Chmiel, Caruso, Osswald, Haller, Pullano and Janak all raced at A-10s in 2018.
A large group freshmen join the program as well – Hayden Barry, Justin Drennan, Sam Dumas, Darion Gregory, Wyatt Hulsey, Isaac Johnson, Ryan Murphy and Christian Riethmiller.
On the women's side, senior Sydney Beeman shows the way after running top-10 program times in both the 5K (19:34.5) and 6K (23:54) during her first three seasons in Brown and White.
While the team will need to replace Emily Izydorczak who graduated after leading the team in each event she ran the past three years, there are several runners aiming to take the next step this fall.
Fellow senior Christine Walsh was limited early last fall due to injury, but has been a top runner for the team in the past three seasons. Junior Samantha Henry comes into her third season with the team after placing in the top-six for Bona in every race the past two years.
Sophomore Theresa Dristle looks to repeat the start of last fall when she placed in the top three on the team in each of the first three events. Fellow second-year runners Lindsey Lytle, Amberlee Robertson, Morgan Brady, Morgan Evarts and Carly Olles give the team a solid foundation for the future.
Though Izydorczak graduated following one of the finest careers in program history, every other Bonnies runner who competed at last year's Atlantic 10 Championship returns this fall. Cummings looks to build off her PR time of 19:48 which was third on the team at last year's conference meet.
The Bonnies will have a strong schedule after wrapping up the Little Three Championship. As September begins, the team will head back to Buffalo for the Stampede Invitational (Sept. 13) before racing at the Anderson Invite in Rochester where the team has traditionally posted fast times (Sept. 21).
Members of the team can circle Oct. 5 on the calendar as that date brings a trip to the Bluegrass State and competition in the Louisville Cross Country Classic. Bona also will trek to Ohio for the Jenna Strong Invitational in Wilmington (Oct. 11).
Championship season rolls around in November with a trip to George Mason for the Atlantic 10 Championship (Nov. 2) and back to Buffalo to wrap the fall at Northeast Regionals (Nov. 15).
"We'll have the opportunity to experience difference areas of the country, different courses and different competition," MacFarlane said. "We should be competitive in each meet. There will be opportunities for confidence boosters for the teams leading up to Atlantic 10s and regionals."
The Bonnies look to continue the upward trend for the program this year. When MacFarlane inherited the running program in 2010, there were nine runners between the two teams. Now with over 40 runners, times have also dropped substantially. Eight of the Bonnies' top 10 all-time women's individual 5K cross country times have been turned in since MacFarlane took over the program while all 10 of the men's individual top 8K times in program history have come under his watch.
Last year saw the addition of full-time assistant coach Sarah Lonzi and, three years after adding distance outdoor track, Bona runners will compete in three indoor meets this winter as well thanks to the support of donors.
"A lot of the wishes we had nine years ago after coming to reality now," MacFarlane said.
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