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October 29, 2011

Men show solid improvement in wintery conditions at Landmark

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Despite freezing, windy and slush snow, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy men's cross country team finished in fifth place at the Landmark Championships, a spot ahead of last year's performance.

In fact, the Mariners finished just behind fourth-place Juniata College on Saturday.

They were led by an outstanding performance from senior Logan Swan, who placed 19th overall. The third and fifth runners for the Mariners -- sophomore Nathan Rogers and freshman Matt Pastuszak ran particularly strong as well.

"Logan has consistently shown that he runs well in big races; that is such a great quality to have," coach Greg Lott said.

After Logan, five freshmen and three sophomores took the next eight spots for the Mariners.

"I can't describe how excited that makes me for the future of the program," Lott said.

USMMA follows a tri-mester schedule and wrapped up final exams on Friday, the day before the Landmark Championships.

"It's a lot to ask of such a young team, who are just getting accustomed to the rigors of a U.S. federal service academy, to make it through a tough week of finals where they are only getting a couple hours of sleep each night, and go out there and run their best in a meet like this," Lott said. "But that is just what they did. They competed hard and showed strong improvement as a unit from a year ago. I'm expecting some big races out of them at ECACs and NCAA Regionals now that they'll be more rested.  They are starting to peak at the right time; it's very exciting!"

By the time Kings Point toed the line for the start of the 8K race, Bethlehem already been under a winter storm advisory for nearly 12 hours. Temperatures were just above freezing and at least four inches of heavy slushy snow laid across the course. The wind whipped in the runner's faces at 15-20 mph and blurred their vision.

"It was crazy out there," Lott said. "Tree branches had fallen, everyone was soaked to the bone and frozen. It was the most unique race conditions that I have ever seen in October."

The Mariners return to action at Mt. Greylock in Williamstown, Mass. on Saturday for the ECAC Championships hosted by Williams College.