Both the women’s and the men’s cross country teams return this season as champions of the modestly-sized New Jersey Athletic
Conference (NJAC). It was the women’s team’s 28th overall NJAC title and the men’s team’s 20th consecutive NJAC Championship win. But the Lions have their sights set on something far greater than paltry local success in a conference of ten schools.
“You can’t compare NJACs to Nationals — Nationals is every team’s goal in the country,” said sophomore and 2013 All-NJAC First Team member Andrew Tedeschi. “Although winning the conference is nice, it should not be our season’s main focus. Nationals is our endpoint.”
Nationals, or the NCAA Championships, brings together the fastest schools in Division III to compete against one another, a spectacle in which any runner would dream to take part.
To get in, schools must run a gauntlet of races. The best in each Conference get to go to a Regional event, and the top two in that event get to Nationals. But there are also wildcard bids which can send the best in each region not in the top two to Nationals.
Last year, the women’s team got into Nationals on one of these wildcards, earning the school 31st place at the event.
Of the seven, senior Tara Nealon ran the fastest with a time of 22:29.2, earning 55 points for the College overall. Nealon and four other NCAA runners — seniors Megan Stack, Liz Johnson and Jillian Manzo, and junior Marissa Lerit — are running again this year.
Nealon and Stack were selected for the All-NJAC First Team last year while Manzo made the Second Team.
The 2013 season was the womens’ strongest season since 2008, the last time the team had been to Nationals.
The men’s team made it to the NCAA Atlantic Regionals where 39 different schools participated. The top two in the region get an automatic bid for Nationals.
The Lions came in 8th place with a score of 252 points. Tedeschi was the top Lion in that event, finishing 30th out of 275 runners with a time of 25:50.2.
“Personally, my goals are to improve my times significantly from last season, become an All-American and make my teammates the fastest they can be,” Tedeschi said.
Despite the wildcards, Tedeschi hopes his team will make top two this year at Regionals.
Six of the seven runners that went to regionals, including Tedeschi, are returning. The others are sophomore Alex Cary, senior Andrew Wilson, junior Andrew DeMaria, junior Tyler Grimm and sophomore Kevin Scott.
The male Lions also boast a talented regiment of freshmen recruits, according to Tedeschi.
“We have recruited a talented freshmen class,” he said. “I have no doubt that they will contribute enormously to this team.”