Aug. 29, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
The four-time defending Patriot League champion Navy men's cross country team will open the 2012 season this Saturday with the Harry Lang Invitational in Hamilton, N.Y. The meet will take place at Colgate University and is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
The Navy men's cross country team is currently in the midst of one of its most successful stretches in program history. The team has claimed four consecutive Patriot League titles and has finished in the top five at the NCAA regional meet in each of the last three seasons. The recent success of the program stems from a strong team-first concept. This season will be no different, as the Mids' success will largely be determined by the strength of the entire roster. With just four returning letterwinners and two seniors, Navy will look for contributions from everyone.
"With a ceiling of six seniors graduating, one would think that our underclass would throw their hands up," said Navy head coach Al Cantello. "Just the opposite has occurred - this generation of Navy distance men learned what it takes to excel in this program. By osmosis, or otherwise, this fall will be full of surprises.
"The desire to improve in this mild form of savagery comes from within. Our depth has always been the bulwark of our program."
The 2012 season will mark Cantello's 50th year at the Naval Academy and 45th as head coach of the men's cross country team. The four-time Patriot League Coach of the Year is relishing the opportunity before him and his team this season.
"This season will be fun as my title goes from a noun to a verb. Instead of a coach, I'll be coaching," he said.
Kyle Satterwhite is the Mids' most experienced returner as the captain has appeared in 19 career meets. The native of Charlottesville, Va., will be counted on to lead a young team that includes a total of 21 freshmen or sophomores. Satterwhite had a solid 2011 campaign as he was one of Navy's top-five finishers in all seven meets in which he competed. He placed 10th at the Patriot League Championships for the second consecutive year, again earning second-team all-league honors.
"We will again have great leadership in Kyle," said Cantello.
Navy's other senior, Chris Galvin, is the only other returning Mid that competed in seven meets last season. Galvin was one of Navy's top-five finishers on three occasions in 2011 and saved his best race of the season for last. The native of Austin, Texas, placed 31st and was the Mids' third finisher at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional.
With such a small amount of experience returning, the seven-member Navy junior class will help provide additional leadership.
"Juniors who could surprise this year include Robbie Patterson, C.J. Elward, coming off a year of injuries, and the surprise of the year, Wes Kennedy," said Cantello. "Regarding depth, another junior, Sean Rynning will be our bread-and-butter man."
Patterson is the most seasoned third-year member as he appeared in six meets last season and scored in all five of his final races. After taking third overall against Army, the Owings, Md., product helped Navy to another conference title by finishing 12th at the Patriot League Championships, earning second-team all-league accolades.
Elward, Alex Merrall and Rynning all competed in five meets in 2011. Rynning was one of Navy's top-six finishers in three meets, while Merrall scored in a pair of meets.
Navy's underclass-heavy roster starts with 10 sophomores, six of which appeared in a varsity meet in 2011. Last season John Sweeney was the only Midshipmen to see time in a varsity race past the opening week as he ran in the Patriot League Championships.
"Rising sophomores who now know the landscape and will contribute heavily are John Sweeney, Jeramy Triplett, Zach Hebda, Brian De La Mora, and another sleeper, Tom Delaney," said Cantello.
While Cantello expects several sophomores to step to the forefront, he also believes a pair of freshmen could make an early mark on the program.
"Only a handful of plebes have been impact runners over the years," Cantello said. "This year will be different as two outstanding runners, Steve Schroeder and William Miller, will see much varsity action."
Both Schroeder (Illinois) and Miller (Maryland) were high school cross country state champions.
The Midshipmen open the 2012 campaign on Sept. 1 with the Harry Lang Invitational, hosted by Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. The following weekend, Navy will return to the Harry Groves Invitational in University Park, Pa. In their last appearance at the event - which typically features some of the strongest teams in the region - the Mids placed third in 2010.
On Sept. 15, the Mids will host the annual Navy Invitational at the U.S.N.A. Golf Course. Navy placed four runners in the top 12 at the event last season, taking second place overall.
This year's schedule features a new event for the Midshipmen, as they will head to South Bend, Ind., on Sept. 28 for the Notre Dame Invitational. After another week off, the Mids will host Army in the Star Meet on Oct. 13 in Annapolis. Navy has defeated Army in three consecutive duals and holds a 46-28-1 all-time advantage against the Black Knights.
Navy will go for its fifth consecutive Patriot League title when Colgate hosts the conference championships on Oct. 27.
The 2012 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship will be held in University Park, Pa., on Nov. 9. The top two finishing teams from each of the nation's nine regions will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky.