Men’s cross country claims third straight PL title

by Nick Lovera, Army Athletic Communications

November 7th, 2019 | Army and Community Sports, Sports
For the third consecutive season, the Army West Point men’s cross country team won the Patriot League Championship. It marks the program’s 10th Patriot League title and the first three-peat since the program won four consecutive championships from 1993-96.  Photo by Army Athletic Communications

For the third consecutive season, the Army West Point men’s cross country team won the Patriot League Championship Saturday in Hamilton, New York.
This marks the program’s 10th Patriot League title and the first three-peat since the program won four consecutive championships from 1993-96.
Depth was the key factor for the Black Knights, as five different Cadets placed inside the top-14 to earn All-Patriot League honors. Earning first-team honors were seniors Ben Petrella, Robbie Santoyo and Roman Ollar who placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
It marks the third consecutive season that the trio has been named to the all-league team.
Earning second-team honors were sophomore Marshall Beatty and freshman Garrett Gough. The rookie Gough was the race’s top placing freshman, crossing the line ninth to earn Patriot League Outstanding Rookie of the Meet honors. Beatty, who earned the top rookie prize a year ago, placed 13th. A Cadet has now claimed the award in three consecutive years as Daniel Mazzei was the 2017 recipient.

Coach’s Corner: Head Coach Mike Smith
“I have been coaching for 25 years and you never get tired of winning a championship. It is difficult to win in collegiate sports. There are a myriad number of things that can derail a team at any given time and the other teams and coaches are trying just as hard as you.
“So, it was great to see our men put it together today and be rewarded with a title. I challenged them to be warriors today. And while I have used that term before with other men on other teams, it has more meaning here with these guys because they are Soldiers. It is a badge of honor to be viewed as a warrior, so it really resonated with them and today we saw the kind of grit and determination that we expect from warriors. They were challenged to go win and they did exactly that. I am proud of them.
“Going into the meet, we knew we had to do our best running from the top of the hill at three miles to the finish. This course is a monster, so we knew we had to not only consider our opponents and how to beat them, but also had to manage the course or it could beat us. The entire race is on top of a mountain and the majority of the running is up or down on uncertain terrain. That combined with about 2.5 inches of rain this week turned this race into something closer to a survival trail run. There was ankle deep mud, unstable footing, small streams crossing the trails, dangerous turns, rocks and roots. It was as demanding and dangerous a course as I have ever encountered. Just managing to stay upright was a challenge.
“We knew we needed to get out into the race and that we needed to close hard. We did both. Early in the race, we were down quite a bit to Navy, but we didn’t panic and we just chipped away at their lead through the middle miles. With a mile to go, we had surged ahead and if you look at the results, it appears that we held that margin to the finish. But the reality is, there was some significant shifting that went on in that last mile that won it for us.
“With 400 meters to go, the outcome was definitely in doubt, but we had a couple guys move up a spot by the finish line and that made the difference. We have won three in a row of these championships and this was the most challenging of the three.
“We had three seniors lead us today and I am really happy for them. Ben, Robbie and Roman have taken this program on their backs since they got here and it was more of the same today.
“This conference continues to improve and winning is not easy. The guys earned it today. Garrett has one of the most impressive races we have seen out of a plebe in quite some time. He was in the top 15 early and just kept moving up. His rookie award is the third in a row for us at this meet. He has been a terrific performer all year. Roman and Robbie were really strong today as well. We expect that kind of performance from them, but can’t be undervalued.
“Then there is Ben Petrella. He has led us at every meet this year. He has been one of our best runners since he arrived four years ago. He is as consistent as they come and is a fierce competitor.
“No one wanted this championship as much as him and he left it all out there today. I am proud of what he has accomplished so far and look forward to what comes next for him.
“We will enjoy this win today and then set our minds to the next challenge in Buffalo two weeks from now.”
Top finishers:
4. Ben Petrella—25:19.4
5. Robbie Santoyo—25:30.7
6. Roman Ollar—25:36.2
9. Garrett Gough—25:39.1
13. Marshall Beatty—25:55.0
21. Robert Chappell—26:15.4
22. Daniel Mazzei—26:18.3.

Team results:
1. Army (37)
2. Navy (40)
3. Boston U (96)
4. Lehigh (97)
5. Bucknell (105)

Full results:

Up next: Army heads to Buffalo, New York for the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 15.