Royal Harriers Third In Landmark Conference Preseason Polls

Kathleen Druther returned to the lineup Saturday to lead Royals to 18th-place finish in 47-team field at NCAA Mideast Regional at DeSales University
Kathleen Druther returned to the lineup Saturday to lead Royals to 18th-place finish in 47-team field at NCAA Mideast Regional at DeSales University

Coach Bill Burke’s University of Scranton men’s and women’s cross-country teams are expected to be in the thick of things when the Landmark Conference holds its championship meets on Saturday, October 29, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Both teams have been picked to finish third in their respective divisions in a poll conducted among the conference’s head coaches and sports information directors and released yesterday (women) and today (men) by Joel Cookson, associate commissioner.

Only eight points separate the top three teams in the women’s poll, with Juniata College hanging on to the top spot with 71 points, just one more than defending champion Susquehanna University (70) and eight ahead of 2009 champion Scranton (63).  Moravian College is fourth (48), followed by Goucher College (45), The Catholic University of America (34), Merchant Marine Academy (18), and Drew University (15).

Four-time defending champion Susquehanna University is the clear-cut favorite in the men’s division, picking up first-place votes on nearly every ballot and racking up 82 points.  Moravian is picked to finish second with 67 points, followed by Scranton and Juniata with 61 points apiece, Goucher (42), Merchant Marine Academy (35), Drew (21) and Catholic (17).

Junior Kathleen Druther (Clarks Summit, Pa./Scranton Preparatory) will once again hold down the number spot in the Royal lineup and should battle Goucher senior Kelsey Myette and Moravian senior Cadee Rockwell for the Landmark Conference individual crown.  Druther, the conference’s rookie of the year in 2009 and a two-time first-team all-conference selection, has flourished under Burke’s long-distance training regiment and will look to become Scranton’s first NCAA all-Mideast regional selection (top 35) since Becky Prial in 2005.

Much of Scranton’s success will rely, however, on its time differential between Druther and the next four runners in the lineup.

Expected to close that gap are juniors Veronica Kurtulik (Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY/Cornwall Central)  and Marisa Dussel (Glen Head, NY/North Shore), each of whom posted top-25 finishes at last year’s conference meet, and sophomore Mary O’Neill (Brockton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy), whose promising season was cut short by an injury last year.  Burke also expects a number of incoming first-year runners to solidify the upper and middle tiers of the lineup.

The Royal men have the nucleus to snap Susquehanna’s stranglehold on the conference title, especially with the return two all-conference performers in seniors Jason Bohenek (Jessup, Pa./Holy Cross-Bishop O’Hara) and Patrick Casterline (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater Raritan).  Add three-time Landmark Conference runner-up and two-time NCAA qualifier Chris Wasnetsky (Dunmore, Pa./Bishop O’Hara) into the mix after a year away from the program and Scranton’s top three can hang with anyone.

The fourth and fifth spots in the lineup, however, could determine whether or not the Royals make a serious challenge to win their first-ever conference title in the program’s history.  Plenty of veterans are back to take up the mantle, including sophomore Walter Cantwell (Collingswood, NJ/Camden Catholic) and senior Jeremy Evans (Scranton, Pa./Holy Cross-Bishop Hannan), each of whom placed in the top 25 at last year’s conference meet, and senior Chris Cummings (Scranton, Pa./Scranton Preparatory), juniors Matt Willcox (West Chester, Pa./Malvern Preparatory) and Brock Walsh (Scranton, Pa./Scranton), and sophomore Stefan Bossbaly (Washington Crossing, Pa./Holy Ghost Preparatory).

Burke has also tapped into the talent-rich local area, adding freshmen Kyle Frick (Dunmore, Pa./Dunmore), Jacob Kanavy (Archbald, Pa./Valley View) and Bill Burke (Scranton, Pa./Scranton Preparatory) to bolster his lineup.  Another freshman, Kevin Patrick Barrett (Basking Ridge, NJ/Seton Hall Preparatory), will challenge for a spot in the lineup.

The Royals will begin preseason camp on Monday, August 22, and begin preparation for their season opener on Thursday, September 1, at the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic to be hosted by King College.  The Royal women won the event in 2009 and the men finished second.  Scranton did not compete in the 2010 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic.

The 2011 Landmark Conference men’s and women’s cross-country preseason polls are as follows:

Men Points
1. Susquehanna 82
2. Moravian 67
3. Scranton 61
3. Juniata 61
5. Goucher 42
6. Merchant Marine Academy 35
7. Drew 21
8. Catholic 17
Women Points
1. Juniata 71
2. Susquehanna 70
3. Scranton 63
4. Moravian 48
5. Goucher 45
6. Catholic 34
7. Merchant Marine Academy 18
8. Drew 15

The University of Scranton's 2011 men's and women's cross-country schedule is as follows:

Day Date Event Time
Thu. Sept. 1 at Northeast Pennsylvania Classic (King's College) TBA
Sat. Sept. 10 at Lebanon Valley Invitational 10:15/11 am
Sat. Sept. 24 at Dickinson Invitational 11:00 am
Sat. Oct. 8 at DeSales Invitational 10:30/11 am
Sat. Oct. 15 at Gettysburg Invitational 1:00 am
Sat. Oct. 29 at Landmark Conference Championships 1:00 pm
    Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pa.  
Sat. Nov. 12 at NCAA Mideast Regional 11:00 am
    DeSales University, Center Valley, Pa.  
Sat. Nov. 19 at NCAA Division III Championships TBA
    Lake Breeze Golf Course, Winneconne, Wis.  
    Host:  University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh