Both of the United States Merchant Marine Academy cross country teams are focused on ascending in the Landmark Conference in 2012.
The men's team is fresh off a fifth place finish at the 2011 Landmark meet, moving up one spot from 2010. They hope to build on the momentum from a strong performance in last year's outdoor track season where they finished just three points out of second place.
Junior Nathan Rogers will captain the Mariners in 2012 who return five of their top seven runners from 2011. Along with Rogers, other key returners include sophomores Nicolas Walsh, Alex Megeff, Anthony Konecni, and David McGowan, who was USMMA's top runner last season.
Adding additional depth to the roster, Kings Point will turn to senior Daniel Baxter who was the fastest Mariner in the 1500m during the last year's track season.
Complementing these returners will be a fresh crop of newcomers; five of whom had run sub-16:30 5Ks in high school.
John Weldon, joins the Mariners after being crowned Class 5A Texas State Regional Champion. Accompanying Weldon will be Matt Venanzi from New Jersey, Brendan Dooley from Kentucky, Jason Black from Italy, and Andrew Walsh, a New Mexico Military Institute transfer from Ohio.
On the women's side, despite being ranked seventh out of the gate, the Mariners are confident they can make some headway within the conference.
USMMA boasts a 17 woman roster, more than quadrupling the total of four athletes that ran conference championships in 2009. Returning for Kings Point are five of the top seven runners from last season, including sophomore captain Amber Kinter, who was the Mariners' number two runner in 2011.
Rounding out the top returners are sophomores Elizabeth Coulter, Mary Silk, Baylee Greer, and Kelly Whalen. Whalen had a couple of standout performance in 2011 powering USMMA to 2nd place at the Purchase College Invitational by finishing fourth overall. At the C.W. Post Invitational, she helped Kings Point finish first among Division-III schools by running the fastest 5K by any female Mariner in two years.
USMMA also has a talented group of newcomers in 2012. Saxson Londagin, a SUNY Maritime transfer from Washington, Danielle Garcia-Lance from Colorado, Emily Bull from Pennsylvania, Gloria Mahoney from Georgia, and Madeline Sullivan, all look to make an impact in their first year of competition.
Possibly the strongest addition to the 2012 Mariner's roster is senior Gretchen Holoubek who was USMMA's top runner in 2010 and returns to the team after missing 2011 while at sea.
The Mariners have finished in seventh place, their best ever finish, at the Landmark Championship meet the past two years.
Both the men's and women's teams will begin their season at the West Point Open on August 31st.