(Posted October 29, 2008)

MADISON, N.J. -- The Landmark Conference's championship season will officially kick off on Saturday Nov. 1 when the 2008 Landmark Cross Country Championships will be held at the Fort Roberdeau Historic Site in Altoona, Pa.

Juniata College will serve as the official host of the meet in which men's and women's team champions will be crowned, along with individual champions in both the men's and women's races. Competition will begin with the men's 8K race at 10 a.m., followed by the women's 6K run at 11 a.m. An awards ceremony will follow the women's race, at approximately 12:15 p.m.

Defending champion Susquehanna University enters the meet as the favorite to reclaim its men's team title as the Crusaders have enjoyed several strong performances over the year, including a third-place finish at the Juniata Invitational which featured most of the Landmark teams.

Host Juniata was the runner-up by just one point a year ago and with a strong mix of veterans and youth on the roster should be in the mix again. The University of Scranton has also enjoyed a solid season with four of its top five runners returning from the team that placed fourth a year ago, the Royals could be poised to challenge for the top spot. Pre-season number-three pick United States Merchant Marine Academy features an experienced lineup capable of competing for a top position.

The women's team competition also projects to be highly competitive as several teams have posted performances throughout the season that suggest they might challenge for a title.

The addition of some talented freshman along with the return of the reigning individual champion has Susquehanna poised to wrest the title away from defending champion Juniata. The Crusaders won the Eagle Invitational on October 11 and have been a consistent team all season, while Juniata returns the same core of runners who claimed the title last season. The Catholic University of America has also been strengthened by a strong freshmen class, and will look to move up after a third-place finish last season. Scranton and Moravian College have both also enjoyed strong seasons and will certainly be contenders for the top few positions.

The men's individual championship will likely come down to a battle between Susquehanna junior Paul Thistle and Scranton sophomore Chris Wasnetsky. Thistle topped Wasnetsky by 20 seconds a year ago to win the title, and the pair have consistently posted the fastest times in the conference this season. Thistle won the Eagle Invitational on this course on Oct. 11, setting a new course record in the process. Juniata junior Sam Williams has been his team's top finisher for most of the season, and along with USMMA senior Keith Wagner and Moravian sophomore Connor Skutches will be runners to watch.

The question on the women's side is whether anyone can challenge Susquehanna sophomore Alycia Woodruff, who won the Landmark individual title and qualified for the NCAA Championships as a freshman. She has continued to perform well in her second year, posting the fastest times in the conference at nearly every distance including winning the Juniata Invitational. Her biggest challenge may come from her freshman teammate Casey Hess who was third at the Eagle Invitational. Other contenders who have posted strong finishes through the year and who may challenge for top positions include Juniata junior Laura Rupprecht, Scranton sophomore Katherine Sullivan, Moravian freshmen Hailey Neff and Cadee Rockwell and Catholic freshman Katherine Sacker and senior Jenna Hackett.

The Landmark Cross Country Championships will be the first of six fall sports that will crown Landmark champions in the coming weeks. Landmark postseason play will begin with semifinals on Wednesday Nov. 5, with Championships following on Saturday Nov. 8


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.