Not a total loss

By: Dominic Chamberlain

Sports Editor

The Griffs men’s cross country team came close to defending their win from last year in the National Catholic Championship. How close? Just one point away from repeating as champs.

The Griffs returned to South Bend, Indiana on 18 Sept. to once again race in the home of the Fighting Irish. Going into the event last year, the Griffs may not have been on the radar as a team that was going to compete for a win. But the Griffs not only competed for a win, they did win, beating Notre Dame by two points with a score of 33 for the Griffs, and 35 for the hosting Irish.

This year however, teams had to be aware of the Griffs. Jeff Antolos, Cooper Roach, Chad Maloy and Brennan Root all returned to Notre Dame having finished in the top 10 of the event last year. And while repeating as champs was the goal, the always strong Fighting Irish team wasn’t going to let history repeat itself. Instead the Irish would go on to top the Griffs this year by an even closer margin than in last year’s race. The final score; the Irish 40, the Griffs 41.

If you don’t know, team events in cross country are scored similarly to golf; the lowest score wins. The top five runners earn points for their team while the points earned by the sixth and seventh place runners are used as tie breakers should two teams tie. Points are awarded based on where you finish in the race. First place gets one point, second gets two points, third is three and so on and so forth.

To make things even harder on the Griffs, that one point difference could have easily gone in their favor. Antolos finished within the same second as Notre Dame Runner Calvin Kraft, Root finished one second behind Ben Kendell of the Detroit Titans, and Roach also came very close to beating Derek Gielarowski, also of the Titans. That’s how close it was for the Griffs.

“I knew it would be within ten points win or lose,” head coach Nate Huckle said. “I knew it was going to be close. When it’s a one point margin though; I’ve won meets by one point and I’ve lost meets by one point. It’s tough to take.”

While the one point loss may be depressing for the Griffs, there was a silver lining coming out of the event. Graduate student Chad Maloy won the race, beating the rest of the field with a time of 24:49.8.

Maloy became the first runner in the Griffs’ history to win the National Catholic Championship. He did so in convincing fashion, beating Notre Dame’s top runner, Tim Ball, by almost 20 seconds. Winning the race is something of which Maloy is incredibly proud.

“It was a big deal to me (winning the race),” Maloy said. “I was really happy. I’m glad to be the first person in Canisius history to win there and it’s just been an honor.”

The win for Maloy comes at the first event that the Griffs were able to really test their conditioning. Last week the Griffs referred to Notre Dame as a “rust buster”, the first chance to really test their stuff against solid competition.

“I am very pleased and very confident with where their conditioning is at right now,” Huckle said. “And once we really start to hit the important workouts in the middle of this season, then the performances are going to jump up considerably.”

Despite not getting the win, the Griffs realize that this was still a good race for them in multiple ways. This race showed that the Griffs are at a great spot in terms of conditioning and that they have a guy who will always be a challenge to beat in Maloy.

Maloy also feels that despite not winning the event, the Griffs are in a good spot at this point in the season. “We had a good, solid performance,” said Maloy, “I couldn’t have asked any more of my teammates. I ran with Cooper for most of the race and he just looked strong throughout the whole thing, and Brennan was up there too, so I was really happy with those guys. And Jeff was up at the front too so I think just a little bit more… tampering and I think we will be ready to go.”

But the race does even more for the Griffs than just showing how strong the team already is. Going down to South Bend Indiana for the past two years, and showing everyone that the small school in Buffalo, New York can run with the big schools like Notre Dame, is bound to have an impact on the program as a whole.

“Once we start to really perform well at bigger meets like National Catholic and the Paul Short Invitational, or having a regional ranking for the second year in a row; those are the things that start to bring in recruits from outside of the immediate area,” Huckle said. “That’s when people start to reach out to me from out of state and it gives me more pull when I do reach out to the better runners in state and out of state.”

So no, the Griffs didn’t win the event as a team, but they still have many positives to pull out of it. Maloy has proved to be a runner that will run his race and be very hard to beat down the stretch and the Griffs as a whole are in a very good spot after the first real test of the season. The only thing left for them to do is keep building off these strong performances, and go to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Cross Country Championship as the good team they know they are.

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