The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference released its Preseason Coaches Poll on Monday, ranking the Slippery Rock University men’s cross country team fifth, behind Edinboro, Shippensburg, Lock Haven, and East Stroudsburg.
The top three teams in the PSAC will qualify for the national championship at the end of the season.
Head coach John Papa, who returns for his 26th season as head coach, is optimistic about his squad’s chances this year.
“I believe we have the potential to qualify for nationals this season.” Papa said.
Returning to lead the team this year are seniors Alec Villiva, Eric Geddis, and All-PSAC honoree Alex Koksal.
After a fifth place finish in the PSAC last fall, the seniors are hungry to make some noise in the region this season.
“With the talent we’ve kept and added this year, along with the amazing work I’ve seen just at the start of the season, we’re headed for big things on both the conference and national stage,” Villiva said.
Other notable returners for the Rock are juniors Travis Arrigoni, Morgan Elliott, and Michael Beegle, as well as sophomore Chris Grooms.
Arrigoni and Elliott earned All-PSAC honors at Lock Haven last fall, placing 9th and 15th, respectively.
Arrigoni is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.
“The top five teams in the conference are all very evenly matched,” said Arrigoni. “PSACs and regionals will be a dogfight.”
SRU opens the season today at the Daniel Walker Invitational in Grand Island, N.Y.