RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Felician University women's and men's cross-country teams will compete in the 2018 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Championship meet on Sunday, October 28. The event will be hosted by the Jefferson Rams (formerly Philadelphia University) at Belmont Plateau, located inside Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Pa. The women's 5,000-meter race is slated for 9 a.m., with the men's 8,000-meter competition scheduled to follow at 10 a.m.
The Felician men will be looking to improve upon last year's seventh-place finish, while the Golden Falcon women hope to exceed their 13th-place result in 2017. The men's team has won nine CACC championships, while the women's squad seeks its first. Both teams are led by first-year head coach Elson Smajlaj.
The top 15 individual finishers in each race will be named All-CACC. The navigation address for Belmont Plateau is 2000 Belmont Mansion Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19131. The CACC Network, in partnership with BlueFrame Technology, will provide free live streaming video of the start and finish of both races, plus the award ceremony, beginning at 8:45 a.m. at http://caccnetwork.com/?bfplayvid=93597.
The Felician women enter the championship with four freshmen and a sophomore transfer among their entrants. Freshman Shayla Morales (North Bergen, N.J./North Bergen) is a four-time CACC Rookie of the Week, and transfer Jillian O'Brien (Bogota, N.J./Bogota) has been the Golden Falcons' regular No. 2.
Junior Jane Burgoyne (Glen Rock, N.J./Glen Rock), the Golden Falcons' 2017 frontrunner, and sophomore Kayla Hightower (Norfolk, Va./Camden [N.J.]) are the only members of the planned Felician delegation that also ran in last year's conference championship.
"Having (teammates) beating me is OK because I know I'm in a better situation," Burgoyne said. "I understand that this is how a team grows and improves. There is always someone better out there, but I still need to do my best for Felician."
The Golden Falcons plan to submit the maximum seven runners in the event. Three other true freshmen – Hadeel Alshujaieh (Clifton, N.J./Clifton), Bri Balderas (Somerset, N.J./Franklin), and Alysson Martinez (Union City, N.J./Union City) – have joined Morales and O'Brien to breathe life into the program.
"Whenever we can run any race as a team, it's a great opportunity," Burgoyne said. "On Sunday, there will be the typical pre-race nerves, but I'm happy to be part of having a chance to accomplish something great."
Philadelphia/Jefferson has won the last four CACC women's crowns. The meet returns to Belmont Plateau for the 11th time in the last 12 years.
The Felician men have been led by junior transfer Jake Thoden (Hillsborough, N.J./Hillsborough) and freshman Jorge Dutan (Hackensack, N.J./Hackensack). Last year's No. 1 man, sophomore Joel Garcia (Passaic, N.J./Passaic), has still been the Golden Falcons' consistent third runner despite several setbacks in his training.
"While I'm not comfortable with the current situation, I realize where my body is," Garcia said. "It's given me a hunger that I thought I had lost. I know the journey I will have to take to get back to being our top guy. It's made me value my talents and the opportunities that Felician has given me."
The Golden Falcons will enter six runners. Senior Andre Francisco (Lyndhurst, N.J./Lyndhurst) prepares for his fourth CACC Championship race. Meanwhile, sophomores Jason Argueta (Fairview, N.J./Cliffside Park) and Danny Driscoll (Audubon, N.J./Audubon) will be more comfortable with their surroundings after participating in the 2017 meet.
"We're confident, and we should be running with no pressure," Garcia said. "We've enjoyed each other's company this season, and that plus our pack running has given us a sense of accountability that we're running for each other. A top five finish is realistic, but we at least want to be better than last year."
Jefferson won the 2017 CACC men's cross-country championship.