Men's Cross-Country Is Sixth In Vast, Diverse NJIT Field

Close-up of men's cross-country runner in action.
Andre Francisco, Felician's only senior, was its No. 4 man at the Highlander Challenge on Oct. 6, 2018. (Steven R. Smith)

NEWARK, N.J. – All five Felician University scorers broke 30 minutes for 8,000 meters for the first time this season as the Golden Falcons placed sixth out of 31 non-Division-I teams at the Highlander XC Challenge, hosted by New Jersey Institute of Technology on Saturday afternoon at Branch Brook Park.

Six Felician entrants established season-best times, many besting marks set just a week ago at Lehigh University.

The course that NJIT annually stages at Branch Brook is notoriously flat and fast. Five of the top eight 8,000-meter times in Golden Falcon history occurred in meets hosted by the Highlanders. Rob Albano's 24:33 from 2012 remains the course, meet and school record. Felician was participating in the Highlander Challenge for the first time since 2014.

On Saturday, junior Jake Thoden (Hillsborough, N.J./Hillsborough) was Felician's frontrunner for the fifth time in five 2018 starts. Thoden finished 14th out of 239 male small-college entrants by traversing the course in 26 minutes, 49 seconds. He shaved 1:27 off his previous season low from last week.

Freshman Jorge Dutan (Hackensack, N.J./Hackensack) took 1:43 off last week's result by running a 27:48. He placed 35th in the field.

Felician's final three scorers crossed the line 13 seconds apart. Sophomore Joel Garcia (Passaic, N.J./Passaic) was 61st in 28:54, senior Andre Francisco (Lyndhurst, N.J./Lyndhurst) followed in 63rd (28:59) and sophomore Jason Argueta (Fairview, N.J./Cliffside Park) came in 65th (29:07).

Sophomore Danny Driscoll (Audubon, N.J./Audubon), as the Golden Falcons' No. 6 man, still finished in the top half of the field. He knocked 1:47 off last week's time for a season-best 31:41 and was 116th. Sophomore Jhasim Dunn (East Orange, N.J./Cristo Rey Newark) made his collegiate debut on Saturday and finished in 227th place.

Schools from four different Division-II conferences, plus several strong Division-III and NJCAA members were among the field. The Golden Falcons scored 192 points. They were 10 behind fifth-place Pace University and 29 ahead of St. Joseph's (N.Y.) College of Patchogue in seventh. Felician led the contingent of three Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference members in attendance.

Lock Haven University captured the championship with 16 points, placing five runners among the top nine finishers. New York Institute of Technology sophomore Noah Simatei was the individual winner, crossing the finish line in 25:20.

On the Division-I side, Wagner College bested the host Highlanders, 31-59, to conquer a seven-team field. Saint Francis (N.Y.) College junior Orville Dixon won the race in 25:15.

Felician will participate in the St. Joseph's College Invitational on Oct. 13 at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, N.Y.