RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Felician University men's and women's cross-country teams will compete in the 2019 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Championship meet on Sunday, October 27. The event will be hosted by Chestnut Hill College at Belmont Plateau, located inside Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Pa. The men's 8,000-meter race is slated for 9 a.m., with the women's 5,000-meter competition scheduled to follow at 10 a.m.
The Felician men will be looking to improve upon last year's ninth-place finish, while the Golden Falcon women hope to exceed their fourth-place result in 2018. The men's team has won nine CACC championships, while the women's squad seeks its first. Both teams are led by second-year head coach Elson Smajlaj.
The top 15 individual finishers in each race will be named All-CACC. The navigation address for Belmont Plateau is 2000 Belmont Mansion Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19131. The CACC Network, in partnership with BlueFrame Technology, will provide free live streaming video of both races beginning at 8:50 a.m. at https://caccnetwork.com/?bfplayvid=146071.
The meet returns to Belmont Plateau for the 12th time in the last 13 years.
The Felician men have been led by resurgent junior Joel Garcia (Passaic, N.J./Passaic) and senior Jake Thoden (Hillsborough, N.J./Hillsborough). The Golden Falcons' top performer as a freshman, Garcia slipped to the No. 3 man last year before reclaiming frontrunner status in 2019.
"Our top end guys have been working really hard," Smajlaj said. "Jake has worked through some injuries, and Joel has had a breakthrough season with course PRs in every meet."
The Golden Falcons will enter six runners. Freshman Anthony Sarmiento Rodriguez (Somerset, N.J./Franklin) finished the regular season on an upward trajectory. Juniors Jason Argueta (Fairview, N.J./Cliffside Park) and Danny Driscoll (Audubon, N.J./Audubon) prepare for their third CACC Championship meet, and junior Jhasim Dunn (Newark, N.J./Cristo Rey) receives his first taste of the postseason.
"Our team will hang in there," Smajlaj said. "We should be looking to improve our individual performances and that should keep us at or above the middle of the pack. Hopefully we can grab a couple of all-CACC performances, and then Joel can help our other guys prepare for next year."
Wilmington (Del.) University won the 2018 CACC men's cross-country championship.
Two years removed from a 13th-place finish in this event, the Felician women enter the championship with high hopes. The Golden Falcons are ranked No. 7 by the USTFCCCA in the Division II East Region and are coming off winning their final regular-season race, the St. Joseph's (N.Y.) College Invitational.
"Our goal for Sunday is to have a low spread from our No. 1 to 5 runners," Smajlaj said. "We're still a young team that needs to get used to this event. We need to stay within ourselves and have each athlete run to her potential."
Sophomore Shayla Morales (North Bergen, N.J./North Bergen) was the 2018 CACC Rookie of the Year, and freshman Ashley Linares (Passaic, N.J./Paramus Catholic) will be a contender for this year's award. Junior Jillian O'Brien (Bogota, N.J./Bogota), an all-CACC track & field performer, has been steady in the No. 3 slot, and classmate Vanessa Saiboo (Jersey City, N.J./County Prep) is the team's most improved runner, dropping multiple minutes off her personal records.
The Golden Falcons plan to submit the maximum seven runners. Team captain Jane Burgoyne (Glen Rock, N.J./Glen Rock) is the only senior in the delegation. Sophomore Hadeel Alshujaieh (Clifton, N.J./Clifton) is much improved, and classmate Bri Balderas (Somerset, N.J./Franklin) finished 16th in this event – one slot away from all-conference – a year ago.
Philadelphia University/Jefferson has won the last five CACC women's crowns.
"Coming into the season, we were just looking to be better than last year," Smajlaj said. "Jefferson has set a standard of excellence and they'll be ready. Georgian Court has recruited very well and had an amazing season. What I think you're seeing is that the entire conference is getting better."