The Susquehanna University Men's Cross Country team will have something to prove this season after the Landmark Conference coaches voted the team fifth in the preseason poll release this week.
"I expected us to be a little higher (in the poll)," said Head Coach Marty Owens who starts his 15th season in 2017. "It's OK because it gives the team something to shoot for. They know what they need to do and I think they have what it takes to finish higher at the conference championships than we are in the pre seaosn poll."
Elizabethtown was the top team in the poll with 68 points and six of the eight first place votes followed closely by Juniata which garnered 60 points and the other two first place votes. Moarvian (40 points) was third, Scranton (36) was fourth and Susquehanna (36) was fifth in the voting. Catholic (22), Drew (11) and Goucher (9) rounded out the balloting.
The River Hawks will count on a solid group of returning runners to carry the majority of the load especially during the early part of the schedule that begins with the Bucknell University Opener Friday, September 1.
"Ciaran (Fisher) had a strong finish in the spring ( in the Track and Field season) and is probably our top returner but he is not alone," said Owens. "Eric (Pressler) and Kyle (Skelton) are in better shape and Brandon (Sorge) is right there with them."
Owens will also welcome a strong freshman class with at least a couple runners that are expected to make an immediate impact and add depth to the team.
"I think the key is the work ethic that the team has shown early in the preseason," said Owens. "They are working really hard and I just need to control the ambition so that we can peak at the right time. They all want to go out and set PRs right from the start."
The River Hawks open at Bucknell and then run at Juniata before the Lock Haven event on September 23. The team will host the annual Ashley Tomlinson Alumni Run October 21 just prior to the Landmark Championships at Juniata the following Saturday.
"We have great team chemistry and should challenge for one of the top three spots (in the conference) by the time the championship meet comes."