“Rust Buster”: Griffs look forward to a tough race at Notre Dame

By: Dominic Chamberlain

Sports Editor

Quietly, the Griffs Men’s cross country team are preparing to return to an event as defending champions. The event in question is the National Catholic Championship in South Bend, Indiana; known better to us all as the University of Notre Dame.  

Last year, the Griffs went down to the home of the Fighting Irish not as favorites in the event. However, they upset the hosting Irish and earned the win even though the Irish had the top two finishers in the race.  The Griffs top finisher came in third overall in the form of then sophomore Jeff Antolos.

Antolos finished the five mile run with a time of 25:07.84, just 10 seconds behind race winner Jake Kildoo of the Irish. One second behind Antolos was fellow Griff Cooper Roach; two seconds behind him was Chad Maloy.  The Griffs had three of the top six finishers in the event.

These three runners will be instrumental for the Griffs to repeat as champions of the event. Another event the Griffs are champions of is the annual Little Three Championship. Winning this event is nothing new for the Griffs. All time the Griffs have won 30 of the 45 Little Three Championships and with winning the championship this year on 5 Sept., the Griffs have won 10 consecutive Little Three Championships.

“The race at Little Three was pretty textbook,” said Head Coach Nate Huckle, “We wanted to go down there, win our tenth straight title, and just kind of prove that we were the dominant team in Western New York.”

The Griffs did just that with taking the top seven spots in the race en-route to the easy victory. 10 straight titles goes a long way in recruiting for the Griffs.

“When we’re recruiting regionally, if we’re recruiting from section six and section five and the Western New York area, teams know that we are one of the premier Division I colleges in the state and we can kind of use that against our competition recruiting wise,” Huckle said.

While Little Three isn’t the hardest race of the year for the Griffs, the team knows winning the event is still an honor and serves as motivation for the runners to still take the event seriously.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Maloy said, “just keeping the tradition alive. Obviously you don’t want it to end on your team. I didn’t want it to end and we put in a good effort.”

Little Three, as it did last year, served as the first race of the season for the Griffs. Huckle called Little Three a good way to kick off some rust as they enter the season. However for the Griffs top runners, Maloy, Antolos and Roach, Little Three also serves as the only race before the National Catholic Championship.

The Griffs do have a race separating Little Three and the Catholic Championships, but Huckle uses it as a chance for younger runners to earn their spot in the National Catholic Championship. That race was the University at Buffalo Stampede Invitational.

“At the University at Buffalo Stampede, we were really looking to settle out our last three roster spots for the National Catholic invite,” said Huckle, “And we did that. The freshman got a great opportunity to hit the 8k distance, which they haven’t done yet.”

With the roster in place, attention turns back to Notre Dame and defending the win the Griffs earned last year. It will be no small task the Irish will still be a tough team to race against. The Griffs and Irish will just be two of the over 40 teams registered for the invitational this year. Needless to say the competition will be fierce and it’s something the team is ready for.

“This is a huge race,” said Huckle “Size wise it’s very large, with over 40 teams registered for the invitational and prestige wise; this is a great opportunity for our runners. This is one of those meets where the runners get very excited for it and we’ll go out and take advantage of the great competition that will be offered this weekend.”

If the Griffs want to repeat as champs, the top three runners of Antolos, Roach and Maloy will need to be on their game and with how close their times are, it should be easy to feed off of eachother.

“I know Coop and Chad are in very good shape right now,” said Antolos, “We are probably going to go out there and run together. We just need to be smart and kind of see how the race takes it. We don’t want to go out too hard or too slow, just kind of try and control the race like I think we did last year.”

The three Griffs are always close in times and seem to swap wins throughout the year. It’s this type of “friendly competition” that really pushes them to run their fastest times.

“Of course we all want to beat each other,” Maloy said with a laugh as Antolos and Roach sat nearby. “But you got to kind of tamper a little bit; we don’t want to go out there and kill each other early on. But I know that both of these guys sitting next to me want to go out and win as bad as I do.”

That’s the goal; to win and a realistic one at that. Antolos was close last year with Roach and Maloy not far behind but while an individual win would be nice, the Griffs still want to win as a team again. However the Griffs know that although they won last year, it doesn’t make them the favorites going into the event.

“I think a big thing for us is keeping our composure and not getting overconfident,” said Roach. “Especially after last year with that upset win. We’re just trying to keep that out of our mindset and just go with the game plan.”

Although the race at Notre Dame is the first big race of the year, the Griffs know that this race will be used to set the tone for the more important Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Cross Country Championship which will take place on 31 Oct.

“This is my first 8k since the end of last cross country season,” said Roach, “So similar to them this race is a rust buster, to see where we are at fitness wise but we are just looking to go out, stay in control and see what we can do.”

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