[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com ]
By Tim Harfmann, Staff Writer, @Timharf
The St. Bonaventure men’s and women’s cross country teams start their season on Friday as they host rivals Niagara and Canisius in the Little 3 Invitational on the St. Bonaventure golf course.
The Bonnies have not had much success against their Little 3 opponents, but head coach Bob Macfarlane is confident that his team has the potential to change that this season.
“Canisius is going to be very good again. Obviously they’re the favorite, both the men and women. I think we have a legitimate shot to be with them in the mix of it,” said Macfarlane.
Canisius’ men’s team won last year’s Little 3 Invitational for the sixth consecutive year, while their women’s team won for the fifth consecutive year. Although the St. Bonaventure men’s team finished in last, the women’s team placed second for the first time in team history.
This year’s invitational will be different as the men will run a 5K race at 11 a.m. compared to a usual 8K race.
The 2012 men’s cross country team, without senior leadership, is made up of four freshmen, seven sophomores and three juniors, two of whom are out for the season due to injury.
“The men’s race will be very tough,” Macfarlane said, “but I think we have some freshmen that can step up and make a big difference.”
The women’s race is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. and will also be a 5K race, which is their normal distance.
Macfarlane, who is in his third year with the Brown and White, hopes to see the women improve from last year’s second-place finish and believes Kady Weisner, a junior transfer from Bucknell University, could make a huge impact in the race.
“Don’t be surprised if you see Kady Weisner win the race,” Macfarlane said, speaking highly of the Saint Marys, Pa. native, “I’m not taking anything away from the other girls, but we brought (Weisner) in to be our number one runner and she hasn’t disappointed me in that aspect. She’ll be very competitive.”
The 2012 women’s cross country team consists of four freshmen, five sophomores and one junior.
This year’s invitational, which St. Bonaventure hosts once every three years, will be held on the golf course compared to the athletic fields, where it has been held in previous years. Macfarlane does not believe the times in this year’s 5K races will be as fast as last year’s, due to Niagara’s flat course, but believes this year’s hilly course should not be a challenge for the Bonnies.
“During high school, the kids were so used to running on hilly courses. That’s all they ever ran on,” said Macfarlane.
Macfarlane said the goal is for each individual runner to have their best times at the Atlantic 10 Championship on Oct. 27 in Philadelphia. However, the 1977 St. Bonaventure alum believes that it should not stop them from being competitive on Friday.
“Let’s put it this way, if we come in last, I’ll be disappointed,” the head coach said.
After Friday’s Little 3 Invitational, the Bonnies will compete in five other races.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have been predicted to finish last in the Atlantic 10 Conference, according to this year’s preseason rankings.
Is Macfarlane surprised that both teams were predicted to finish in the “basement of the A-10”?
“Historically, we’ve never been out of the basement and when I got hired that was one of the goals, not to be the doormat for every team in the Atlantic 10,” said Macfarlane.
“I’m hoping that we will be able to move up a spot or two in the men’s and the women’s this year.”
Unlike previous seasons, both the men’s and women’s teams will compete on a biweekly basis. Macfarlane said the reason is for training purposes.
“We had a stretch last year where we had three meets in three weeks and by the time we got to the Paul Short Invitational, the team was tired,” said Macfarlane.
This year’s cross country schedule is filled with unfamiliar courses. In fact, the Bonnies have not ran on any courses this season.
“I wanted to check out new courses and the kids wanted to see different colleges,” Macfarlane said.
St. Bonaventure will compete for the National Catholic Championship at Notre Dame on Sept.14 and then travel to Leesburg, Va. for the Mason Invitational on Sept. 29.
“We’re going to see some A-10 schools at George Mason and it will be nice to see a few more A-10 schools that we normally don’t see,” said Macfarlane.
The Bonnies will have another two weeks off before heading to Gettysburg, Pa. on Oct. 13 for the Gettysburg Invitational.
On Oct. 27, both teams will compete in Philadelphia as Temple hosts this year’s Atlantic 10 Championship. Macfarlane said the top 10 runners from each team will compete and out of the top 10 from each team, the top seven will compete at the Northeast Regionals in Boston, Mass. on Nov. 9.
“It will become more of a competitive thing for the kids to strive for,” Macfarlane said.