Updated: August 31, 2011 12:08 pm (ET)
by America East Communications
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— Defending men’s cross country champion Boston University received all eight possible first-place votes (coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team) en route to being tabbed by America East conference coaches as the unanimous preseason favorite to defend its crown in 2011. Albany, predicted to be this year’s runner-up, received the final first-place vote.
University of Maine places third with 44 points right ahead of 2009 champion Binghamton which had 42 points. New Hampshire comes in at No. 5 with 34 points while Stony Brook (29 points), UMBC (25), Vermont (21) and Hartford (9) round out the poll.
Boston U. and Albany also find themselves in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association’s (USTFCCA) Northeast regional rankings. The Terriers are ranked sixth in the region and Albany is ninth.
The Terriers return some serious depth and talent from last year’s championship squad. That depth features six of the top-25 conference performers from a year ago. Sophomore Rich Peters (Bristol, England/Brimsham Green School) and seniors Robert Gibson (Brookline, Mass./Brookline), Matt Paulson (Manchester, N.H./Manchester Central) and Peter Gilmore (Hanson, Mass./Whitman-Hanson) all finished in the top 20 and are back a year removed from upsetting 2009 champion Binghamton by just nine points.
Returning its four top finishers from a third place finish a year ago, the University at Albany has a real shot at running to conference supremacy this season. Great Dane juniors Alex Leuchanka (Clifton Park, N.Y./Shenendehowa) and Paul Lagno (Salt Point, N.Y./Millbrook) piggy-backed to a 3-4 finish at the 2010 championship meet and should be near the top once again in 2011.
A trio of seniors lead Maine to a third place preseason ranking in 2011. Last year’s individual champion Riley Masters (Bangor, Maine/Bangor) leads the Black Bears while David Currier (Sidney, Maine/Massalonskee) and Spencer McElwain (Caribou, Maine/Caribou) were both top-25 finishers a year ago.
Binghamton, meanwhile, enters the season picked fourth. The Bearcats will need to cope with the graduation of 2010 NCAA meet participant Eric Van Ingen but do have a couple of stud performers returning to a team with no seniors on the roster. Jeff Martinez (Binghamton, N.Y./Johnson City), who finished fifth at last year’s championship meet, and Vasili Papastrat (Binghamton, N.Y./Binghamton) will be counted on for leadership.
Fifth place in the poll belongs to New Hampshire. The Wildcats stumbled to a ninth place finish at the 2010 championship meet but a crop of six sophomores and seven juniors have the Wildcats primed for a more successful 2011 campaign.
Stony Brook graduated 2008 champion Tim Hodge but returns the rest of its young 2010 roster and is picked to finished sixth this season. Senior Gerard Harley (Seatauket, N.Y./Ward Melville H.S.) and sophomore Dan Denis (Bayport, N.Y./Bayport-Blue Point) are the Seawolves’ top returning finishers from last season.
UMBC, which will bring a large collection of young runners to races this year, slots in at No. 7. Senior Sam Boimov (Montgomery Village, Md./Gaithersburg/Salisbury) is the top returning finisher on a roster featuring seven freshmen and 8 sophomores.
The University of Vermont, picked eighth this year, returns its top finisher from every race last season in senior John Little (New Ipswich, N.H./Mascenic Regional). Little earned a tenth place finish at the championship meet in 2010.
Hartford rounds out the preseason poll, slated to finish ninth in the conference this season. Senior Andrew Chalmers (Ashland, N.H./Plymouth Regional) returns as the Hawks’ top finisher from a year ago.
The cross country season gets underway this weekend when UMBC runs at the Mount St. Mary’s Dual 5Ks on Friday. Stony Brook, Maine, New Hampshire and Albany get started this weekend as well while Vermont, Boston U. and Hartford all open their seasons the following weekend. The America East Championship will be decided on Oct. 29 at the University at Albany.
||Team (1st-place votes)
||Boston U. (8)