Coming off its first top-four finish in a conference meet in five seasons, The University of Scranton men's cross country team is poised for another finish in the top half of the Landmark Conference this fall. If the preseason poll of the conference coaches proves to be accurate, the Royals are in position to achieve that goal.
The Royals were picked fourth in the poll of the Landmark's eight head coaches, which was released Wednesday morning. Scranton received 36 points while defending conference champion Elizabethtown sits atop the poll with six first-place votes and 68 points. Juniata was second with two first-place votes and 60 points, followed by Moravian (40 points) and Scranton rounding out the top four. Susquehanna (26) is fifth, followed by Catholic (22), Drew (11) and Goucher (9).
Scranton overcame preseason expectations to finish third at the Landmark Conference meet after coaches voted the Royals sixth in the preseason. In order to exceed expectations again this year, Scranton will need to overcome the loss of Jimmy Buckley to graduation after last season. Buckley led the Royals in every event last year, finishing seventh to earn first-team all-conference honors. He also went on to be named Landmark Conference Senior Scholar Athlete.
Senior David de Leon (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) returns after finishing 10th at last year's conference championship to earn second-team honors while running a personal best for 8,000 meters. Sophomores Eric Bartlett (Sayville, N.Y./Sayville) and Zachary Gutekunst (Ambler, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) also return after snagging top-20 finishes at least year's conference championship. Bartlett was 17th while Gutekunst was 19th.
The Royals also welcome back seniors Nick Peragine (Brooklyn, N.Y./Xavier) and Schuyler Smith (Towanda, Pa./Towanda) who were 23rd and 24th, respectively, at last year's Landmark championship. Five other Royals also return, giving head coach Bill Burke a total of 10 returnees from last year's squad that finished 22nd at the NCAA Mideast Regional.
The men's cross country team will open its season on Friday, Sept. 1, at the Misericordia Invitational at 6 p.m. at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa.
To see the complete Landmark Conference men's cross country preseason poll, visit http://www.landmarkconference.org.