Rochester, NY -- The United States Merchant Marine Academy men's cross country team improved on their NCAA Division-III Atlantic Regional Championship score from 2011 by a full 210 points on Saturday afternoon at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, NY.
Hosted by the University of Rochester, the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship features many of the nation's fastest programs as exemplified by qualifying the maximum number of teams allowed by a region for the NCAA Championships nearly every year.
Despite the soggy course, it was a good day for racing as the forecast of rain held off for the entirety of the meet.
Sophomore David McGowan led the way for Mariners, competing in an extremely tough field of 295 runners representing 48 teams. His finish of 27:17 was 51 seconds faster than his showing last year at this same meet, and 46 spots higher.
McGowan's time was the fastest individual performance by a Mariner at the NCAA Regional Championships since 2007; leading Kings Point to 22nd place, its highest team place since 2005.
Following closely behind were freshman Andrew Walsh with a time of 27:27 and sophomore Nicolas Walsh who crossed the finish line in 27:31. Nicolas Walsh's time was a 55 second and 46 place improvement from a year ago.
Overall, USMMA put forth a strong effort having all five of their scoring runners finish faster than the number one runner for the team at last year's championships. Even team captain Nathan Rogers, the Mariner's number six runner, finished faster than the number two runner for Kings Point from a year ago.
Merchant Marine dropped 210 points from 2011, the most by any of the 48 programs in the Atlantic Region with the exception of Buffalo State College. USMMA also improved six team places from a year ago; finishing 22nd overall. By doing so, Kings Point upended 10 teams as the competitive region increased their field by four schools. USMMA also enacted a bit of revenge by beating SUNY IT, one of just a few schools that finished ahead of USMMA at the ECAC Championships a week ago.
Since Head Coach Greg Lott took the reins of the program in 2010, improvements have been dramatic. In the past two seasons at the NCAA Regional Championships, the squad has improved by a combined 294 points. Once again, only Buffalo State has seen stronger improvement over that two year span by dropping their team score at these championships by 352 points. The third and fourth best improvements by any team in the region (SUNY New Paltz and Union College) are a mere 198 and 196 points respectively; nearly 100 points less than Merchant Marine.
"There is very little fluctuation in the overall standings from year to year in our region," said Coach Lott. "Most teams only see a plus or minus movement of a couple of spots at most in a given year. We moved up six spots this year alone; even when the region added four more schools. It's just really neat to see. I'm so proud of all of the work that this team has put in to make such incredible improvements."
The NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships capped a special year for the Mariners. The 2012 Kings Point squad captured the program's best ever finish in the Landmark Conference (3rd/8) and the highest place at the ECAC Championships (8th/52) since 2000. The Mariners have risen from the Landmark cellar and look to become perennial contenders over the next few seasons and beyond.
During the course of the year, USMMA notched overall meet victories at the Purchase College Invitational and the NJIT Highlander Invitational; racing past stiff competition in each. Kings Point also defeated all D-III schools at the West Point Open and the CW Post Invitational; falling only to elite D-I and D-II programs.
In an extremely impressive outing, they placed ninth out of 40 squads at the famed Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University sponsored by Brooks Shoe Company.
Throughout the season, the Mariners defeated 155 programs and were only beaten 43 times; mounting a winning percentage of .783. This includes racing D-I and D-II programs 23 times, notching an outstanding record of 18-5. USMMA also bested all rivals this year including their service academy nemesis Coast Guard, at the ECAC Championships. The Mariner squad also saw every single member of the Top 15 (Conference Roster) have a lifetime best performance this season.
Individually, several Mariners were recognized by the Landmark Conference for their outstanding performances. John Weldon and Andrew Walsh were each named Conference Athlete of the Week and David McGowan and Daniel Baxter were awarded second team All-Conference honors for their superb showing at the Conference Championships.
"It's a pretty special thing when everyone on the team improves in a given year; you just don't see that in our sport," commented Coach Lott. "I can't say enough about the way that this team has developed. Captain Nate Rogers has done a phenomenal job with helping to create a specific culture in this group that is very conducive to the type of improvements that we have seen. Other leaders such as Dan Baxter and David McGowan have really stepped up in this regard as well. The work ethic and drive have been exceptional. They have also started to do the little things necessary to stay healthy and improve. Going into next season we only lose one member of our championship roster. The future is very bright for the Mariners' cross country program".