The United States Merchant Marine Academy men's cross country team finished first overall in a field of 20 teams at the NJIT Highlander Invitational Sunday afternoon.
Conditions were nearly ideal for a fast run through the 8K course with a slight drizzle and temperatures hovering in the low 50's. The meet was divided into two competitions scoring D-I schools in their own category and D-II, D-III, and junior colleges separately.
The Mariners finished first among all D-II, D-III, and junior colleges placing five runners in the top 25 among a field of 160 participants.
Freshman John Weldon led the way, finishing ninth overall with a time of 26:30 which was only bested by four D-I runners. His time of 26:30 lowers Weldon's personal best mark by a full 45 seconds.
Senior Daniel Baxter and sophomore David McGowan followed behind closely with times of 26:39 (13th Place) and 26:44 (17th Place), respectively. After not having a single runner break the 27:00 minute barrier in the previous two seasons, Kings Point had three runners do so on Sunday.
"Rogers ran 90 seconds faster than he ever has, it was a fast course, but no one else on any team dropped anything close to that amount of time," said Head Coach Greg Lott. "He's been working incredibly hard since the summer and his time just drops each week. His example is giving our program fantastic leadership."
Both Rogers and Baxter ran significantly better than usual. Baxter, who typically places as Merchant Marine's fourth or fifth runner placed second on the team at this meet, and Rogers, who often comes in the seventh or eighth position for the team, finished fourth.
As a team, Kings Point defeated stiff D-II competition such as Molloy, St. Thomas Acquinas, and Felician. Merchant Marine either lost to or equaled each of these schools earlier in the year. "To beat each of these teams shows how we're progressing against other teams," added Coach Lott. "Our top seven finishers all set personal best marks; which is the first time in my coaching career which that has happened in a single meet."
Merchant Marine will have some time to get healthy and sharpen their skills as their next meet isn't until October 27th when they travel to Huntingdon, PA for Landmark Conference Championships.