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Centennial Conference Men's Cross Country Championship Preview

Sam Fujimori
Sam Fujimori

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College men's cross country team is looking to defend its Centennial Conference Championship on Saturday at the Greenspring Course on the campus of Stevenson University, hosted by Johns Hopkins.

Hosting the conference meet last season, the Fords took the team title with four runners among the top nine finishers. Charlie Marquardt was the first to cross the finish line (25:30.2) by nine seconds over his teammate David Roza '15. Joel Christian '15 (25:41.2) was right behind Roza in third while Soren Rasmussen '15 (25:56.4) placed sixth and Jimmy Gorman finished ninth (26:01.8).

The individuals finishing first through seventh were named first-team All-Centennial Conference, while ninth through 14th earned second-team all-conference accolades. By virtue of his individual championship, Marquardt was named the Centennial Conference Runner of the Year. The runner's spectacular 2014 campaign continued as he also won the Mideast Regional.

The Fords have made a steady ascent in 2015, improving from No. 23 in the preseason US Track and Field Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) national poll into a tie for No. 8 in the most recent edition. Johns Hopkins was the only other conference foe to be rank nationally at No. 23. Haverford is also the No. 1 team in the Mideast Regional rankings. The other conference teams in the regional ranks are Johns Hopkins (No. 3) and Dickinson (No. 5).

Marquardt led the team with three wins this season. The senior nabbed victories in the Haverford Alumni Open Race (Sept. 5), Paul Short Run (Oct. 2) and the Rowan Inter-Collegiate Border Battle (Oct. 17). In his last event at Rowan, the reigning conference Runner of the Year fell just four seconds short (24:40) of tying his career best time.

Brier, Gandolfo-Lucia and Gorman are Haverford's top runners after Marquardt. Brier set new personal records in the four-mile (20:16) and 8k (25:14.0) this season. Gandolfo-Lucia broke his previous best 8k time at the Rowan event by 18 seconds (25:01.92). Gorman also had personal best times this season in the four-mile (20:28.0) and 8k (25:09.0).

Other scorers for head coach Tom Donnelly's squad will include sophomore Henry Woods, senior Sam Fujimori and freshman Graham Peet. Woods shattered his career best at Rowan by two minutes (25:18.92). Fujimori didn't race last season because of an injury, but placed 15th at the 2013 conference meet and 24th in his freshmen run at the conference event. Peet has gradually improved his time in the two 8k events he ran this year.

The Fords have won 19 of the Centennial Conference's 22 cross country championships. Dickinson (2008, 2009) and Johns Hopkins (2013) are the only other teams to win the team title with Haverford never finishing lower than third. The Fords have won 17 individual titles in the conference meet's history including the last five.

The men's race will take place at noon on Saturday while the women's race will start at 11 a.m. After the conference race, the men's cross country team will participate in the NCAA Mideast Regional in Newville, Pa. on Nov. 14. The NCAA Championships are the following week (Nov. 21) in Oshkosh, Wisc.