Fords looking for another 'banner' year in men's XC

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The men's cross country season officially gets underway for Haverford College on Thursday, Sept. 26 with the annual Main Line Invitational. The Fords will compete against teams such as Villanova, Penn and La Salle over Haverford's Alumni Course beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Recent history, a book that is growing longer and longer with the team's successes, hints that the Fords will once again vie for not only Centennial Conference honors, but regional and national honors as well.

Since the team placed fourth at the NCAA Division III national meet in 2004, Haverford has been within the top four and on the podium at nationals six times in nine years including the College's first NCAA team championship in 2010 and back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2012.

The 2013 squad will likely be led by senior Christopher Stadler who captured the individual title at the conference meet, won by the Fords for the third time in a row, and culminated his season with an All-American finish at nationals. Teammate Avi Bregman should race up front this season as the senior showed his mettle over the course of the cross country, indoor and outdoor track seasons last year, which concluded with an all-American showing in the steeplechase at the D-III outdoor track championship.

The talent is plentiful beyond Stadler and Bregman, however, and this season will probably have a younger 'look' to it than in the senior-dominated years past.

Sophomore Charlie Marquardt and juniors Joel Christian and David Roza should compete for spots within the Fords' top five scoring places this fall. Senior Brian Sokas has bounced in and out of the top spots across the finish line for Haverford over his first three years and will also battle for scoring places.

Most recently a middle-distance track specialist, senior Gebby Keny has the look of a challenger within the Fords' top 10 or 11 runners heading into his senior campaign. Junior John Curry and sophomores Sam Fujimori, Nicholas Gandolfo-Lucia and Dylan Verner-Crist figure to be in the mix within that top dozen also.

The culture of the program allows newcomers to get their feet underneath them before needing to shoulder the burden of leading the team on the race course, and head coach Tom Donnelly expects the freshmen on the roster to follow the same path.

"Don't let the young guys being new guys fool you, though," says Donnelly. "These guys learn that the success of our first guy across the line at a race can be attributed all the way back through the efforts of every guy chasing him down in practices."

The league's coaches tabbed Haverford with the preseason pick as the No. 1 team in the conference with the coaches' poll released by the league office in late August. The Fords garnered seven of nine first-place votes and a total of 73 points to out-distance Dickinson College and Jouns Hopkins University which finished tied for second in the poll with 54 points and one first-place vote apiece.

The United States Cross Country and Track & Field Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) slotted the Fords into second place within its preseason rankings, trailing only reigning national champion North Central (Ill.) College.