The Seton Hall cross country teams head to Mason, Ohio, this weekend to face a tough test at the Big East Championships.
The men’s team is coming off a win in its last meet at the St. John’s Cross Country Fall Festival, while the women’s team heads to Ohio fresh off a second-place finish at St. John’s.
The Pirates are going up against the likes of Villanova and Georgetown, whose men’s teams are each ranked in the top- three of the Mid-Atlantic region in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association weekly regional rankings. Providence ranked fourth in the Northeast region.
The women will have to face those same teams. The only change in the rankings comes from Villanova, which ranks fourth, and Providence, which ranks first, in their respective regions.
“The Big East is one of the best cross country conferences in the country,” head coach John Moon said. “My athletes are going to do their best, and we are excited. We are going out there to run and we have no pressure on us.”
The men’s team has had strong outings this season, including top-three finishes at the Monmouth Cross Country Kick-Off and the Delaware Invitational.
Likewise, the women’s team had a top-three finish at the Mon- mouth Cross Country Kick-Off and came in third place out of six teams.
The men’s team is led by ju- nior Victor Ricci, who has finished in the top-25 of every meet that the team has run in this
year. He has finished in the top-10 twice, including a first-place finish last week at the St. John’s Cross Country Fall Festival.
“I think knowing all the training we have done is definitely a strong mental factor,” Ricci said. “We have been training since August and running hard up to this point. If we can just stay calm and focused and realize all the work has already been done, everyone on the team should be pretty strong going into it.”
Ricci has had strong finishes in the past two seasons at the Big East Championships, posting a team-leading time of 26:34 in each of those meets.
The men’s team is also led by sophomores Louis Bustamante, Bryant Cordova, Jeff Larson and Jake Simon.
Bustamante has two top-20 finishes and one top-five finish this season, while Cordova has posted three top-five finishes.
Larson has four top-25 fin- ishes, including one second-place finish, and one top-50 finish.
The women’s team is led by senior Amanda Quaglia and fresh- man Kiley Britten, along with junior Desyre Blackburn.
Blackburn is coming off of two straight strong finishes with a fifth-place finish at St. John’s and a team-leading 20:35 that was good enough for a 40th-place finish at the Metropolitan Championships.
“We saw the girls we need to beat and now we know what we need to do to get better heading into this weekend,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn’s finish at the Metropolitan Championships was her first team-leading finish of her career.
Quaglia has four top-20 finishes this season, including one seventh-place finish at St. John’s last week.
Britten has three top-25 finishes this season and a fourth-place finish at St. John’s.
“We are called a sleeper, and I think some of the kids are going to wake up,” Moon said.
“They are going to have to beat us.”
Kevin Huebler can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hueblerkevin.