Cross Country Season Begins September 1
LAWRENCEVILLE--The Rider University cross country season features two local meets, annual trips to the Bronx, Lehigh and Penn State, and a trip to Disney World for the conference championships.
The 2012 campaign begins Saturday, September 1, when the Broncs travel across town to compete in the Blue/Gold Classic, hosted by The College of New Jersey.
"This is a good meet to begin the season because it is low-key," said head coach Bob Hamer, the two-time MAAC Track & Field Coach of the Year, "with just us, TCNJ and Saint Joseph's. For the men the 5k format makes for a nice transition for the incoming freshmen as well."
Following the Blue/Gold Classic Rider returns to the Fordam Fiasco, the first of two races for Rider held at Van Cortlandt State Park in the Bronx, NY. "The Fordham meet gives us another opportunity to run at Van Cortlandt, a challenging, unique course," Hamer said. "The experience of running on this course ahead of time can give us an edge heading into the last meet of the year."
That weekend is November 17, when the Broncs compete in the Bronx in the IC4A/ECAC Championships at Van Cortlandt.
The schedule once again includes a trip to the Lehigh Valley for the Paul Short Invitational. "The Paul Short has grown into a gigantic meet where you get a lot of top 20 teams in the country," Hamer said. "That gives us a chance to expose our athletes to see what top level cross country is. It also allows us to measure where we are in the conference, since so many MAAC teams also run in this race."
The Broncs will compete at the Princeton Invitational for the first time in recent memory. "It is a local course with nice competition," Hamer said. "It should make for a nice preparation for us heading into the MAAC Championships."
The all-important Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships will be held in Florida at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the end of October. The MAAC holds its championships in Lake Buena Vista every four years. "It is always a great trip to Disney for the kids and their families," Hamer said. 'We are always excited to compete in the conference championships, but an atmosphere like Disney adds a little extra for the fans."
The Rider men placed third at the 2011 MAACs and the Rider women were fourth.
"On the men's side we have a very good team this year," Hamer said. "We'd like to repeat that top-three finish and we're shooting for a top two finish this year. The women lost a few key runners from last year but return a great nucleus."
The Rider men return three of the top four harriers from last year, including sophomore Anthony Dentino (Sewell, NJ/Washington Twp.) and senior Sean Donohue (Cliffwood Beach, N.J./Matawan), who both earned All-MAAC honors last season. "Anthony had a great track season in the spring so we're expecting him to grow and the two Sean's (Donohue and senior Sean McCullough of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) have done an awesome job for this program," Hamer said.
The Rider women return two of their top three runners from last year, including senior Megan Elgin (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East), a 2011 All-MAAC harrier. "As an All-MAAC performer we are expecting big things from Meg," Hamer said. "We have some great kids in Jill (senior Jillian Shutt of Lawrenceville, Pa.) and Nicole (senior Nicole Tassello of Suffern, N.Y.) who can really step up and do some great things for this program."
The Mid-Atlantic Regional is held at Penn State this year. "I think the Penn State course is great," said Hamer, who was a two-time track & field All-American at Happy Valley in the early 1990s. "The team really likes competing there and both the men and women performed great there last year at the Regional. That's a little bit down the road but if we can stay healthy we can have a great meet there again this year."