WASHINGTON – The SUNY Polytechnic Men's Cross Country Team won its second straight NEAC Championship on Saturday, leaving the competition in the dust for the second straight year. Last year's championship race was hosted by SUNY Poly – this year's team put to rest any doubts regarding the team's durability, as the group's 7-hour road trip to Gallaudet for this year's championship made no difference in the final outcome.
That isn't to say there were no differences between the 2013 and 2014 champs. Last year's squad was a juggernaut – this year's team snuck up on the rest of the league. Case in point, SUNY Poly's top finisher in Saturday's race, Jordan Sirtoli (West Winfield, N.Y. / Mount Markham) raced sparingly both last season and at the start of the 2014 season due to nagging injuries. The SUNY Poly graduate student finally hit his stride during the second half of the season and has been on fire ever since. Saturday Sirtoli finished in 2nd place overall with a time of 27:32 – the third consecutive race in which he has been the Wildcat's top finisher.
While the route was different this year, the end result was not. The Wildcats blew away the field, garnering the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 10th, and 17th place finishes. The team recorded only 36 points, more than halving second-place Cobleskill's total of 83.
Sirtoli's emergence notwithstanding, the performance of senior and team captain Cody Russell (Fonda, N.Y. / Fonda) was masterful. A four-year runner who, like his good friend and last year's team captain Dylan Parry '14, improved steadily each year, turned in his best-ever finish at the NEAC Championships: 3rd place with a time of 27:46.
Experience was at the fore for SUNY Poly on Saturday, but throughout the season the team has been reliant on youth. The rookies came through yet again in the championship race, as former NEAC Runner of the Week Gregory Bogdan (Broadalbin, N.Y. / Broadalbin-Perth) finished just behind Russell, coming in 4th place with a time of 27:47. His fellow rookie Oliver Crain (Syracuse, N.Y. / Corcoran) was the final scoring finisher for the 'Cats, placing 17th with a time of 29:14.
Sandwiched in between the two rookies was sophomore Joseph Acey (Forestport, N.Y. / Adirondack), who himself battled through injuries earlier this year but came on strong as of late. Acey placed 10th with a time of 28:38.
The 8-kilometer race was won by the conference's consensus top runner, Alexander Kane out of Penn St.-Abington, who finished with a time of 27:18 to take the NEAC Runner of the Year award.
Sirtoli, Russell, and Bogdan finished in the top seven and all were named to the NEAC All-Conference 1st Team as a result. The award was a first for Sirtoli and Bogdan, while Russell moved up from his 2nd Team finish of a year ago.
Acey's 10th-place finish landed him on the All-NEAC 2nd Team for the second year in a row, and Crain opens his career with an All-NEAC 3rd Team appearance. While SUNY Poly's tremendous race left him out of the scoring five runners, rookie Andrew Jeselson (Rome, N.Y. / Rome) was named to the All-NEAC 3rd Team, finishing in 21st place.
The team's head coach, Bill Tylutki, picked up his second-straight NEAC Coach of the Year Award, his third overall. Tylutki's performance this year was arguably more impressive than last season's. While the 2014 team contained plenty of talent, much of it was unproven. The veteran coach pulled all the right strings throughout the year, pushing runners hard when need be but also resting them if necessary.
The Wildcats will now have a week off to prepare for the NCAA Regionals which will be hosted by the University of Rochester on November 15th.