The College of Staten Island men’s cross-country unit successfully defended their CUNYAC Championship yet again on a wet and overcast morning at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, repeating as champions in the conference’s 8k event.  It was the third title in a row for the Dolphins, who tidied up a tremendous season.  On the women’s ledger, the team raced valiantly to a fifth-place finish.  Losing a few runners to injury leading up to the big race, the race was a successful one for the women’s unit.

All eyes were on the CSI men as marked favorites in this year’s meet, as the Dolphins finished above all other CUNYAC teams at events throughout the year.  But the Championship Meet always seems to bring out the best in all of the teams, and 2015 was no different, as CSI battled every step of the way and against some obstacles.  The first such obstacle was illness to CSI’s top runner, Andrew Scharf.  The four time CUNYAC Player of the Week was certainly under the weather, and certainly the damp and chilly morning conditions didn’t make things easy for any of the fleet of foot.

Still, CSI was tremendous throughout.  Starting with sophomore Liam McMunn, the boys in blue and white poured in.  McMunn snagged a time of 30:00.2, good for fifth overall in the field and good for his second fastest time at Van Cortlandt this season.  Saving his best race for last and right on McMunn’s heels was Kenneth Morella, who came in seventh position with a race time of 30:08.0, shaving over 30 seconds off of his personal best time this season.  Scharf did manage a top 10 finish, with a time of 30:23.3 and was next to cross.  CSI then slammed the door on a championship when Matthew Day and Samuel Obisanya were next to cross, in 11th and 12th places, respectively.  Day finished with a time of 30:35.6, while Obisanya finished at 30:57.8.  The five scorers combined for 45 points, which was 17 better than second-place CCNY (62) and third-place Hunter College (64).

“To have all five scorers finish in the top 12 show how well they can continue to work together as they have throughout the season,” told head coach Robert Russo.  “We had some impressive individual performances, especially from Liam and Kenny who stepped up their efforts, and from Andrew whose been sick all week.”

CSI had plenty of other racers put up solid performances.  Khaled Halwani was next to cross, finishing in 21st with a time of 31:46.6 and Joshua Ribaudo came in 32nd with a time of 33:21.5.  Richard Ruggiero topped out at 35:26.4 (44th) and Michael Jachcinski crossed in at 36:19.8 (54th). 

For Russo, the race was a culmination of extreme training and hard work by his unit, and he could not be prouder of the achievements by his squad.  “It’s a true testament to the dedication and work ethic of the team and their ability to compete as a unit.  The team gave their all and they were very motivated to defend their title.  They competed under pressure and put a lot of heart into their races.”

Unfortunately injuries to basketball standouts Victoria Crea and Victoria Gallinaro put a damper on what CSI hoped would be a magical ride to a championship this season, but it didn’t stop the women from putting up impressive performances at the Championship, and even though the team came in around the middle of the pack, the unit was certainly encouraging.  The charge was led by senior Victoria Barry, who closed out a tremendous career with a 16th place finish in the final with a time of 28:31.8, CSI’s third fastest 6k time this season, a great time considering the rainy conditions.  Up next was Kristina Morel, who week after weeks keeps showing tremendous progression and today finished with a time of 28:56.7, also her second-fastest faring of the year, and good for 20th overall.  Coming in 24th place was Frances Gonzalez, who cruised in at 29:41.5.  Fellow hoops star Christina Pasaturo completed the race in 30:43.2 (33rd), while Rebecca Vidal wrapped up a great season with a race time of 31:41.7 (36th).

The five scorers combined for 123 points.  Hunter College won the meet by 50 points, scoring 23 points.  John Jay came in second at 73 points, followed by York with 78, Baruch with 121, followed by CSI.

Jamie Pifalo (42nd, 32:42.2) and Nicole Imbesi (43rd, 32:49.6) also raced strong today, and CSI got spirited finishes from Natalie Sabalza (61st, 34:58.8), Carissa Mazzeo (69th, 35:57.9), and Clara Hernandez (76th, 38:58.6).

Russo was delighted with the heart and effort shown by his unit.  “We showed a lot of heart out there and all season we have shown improvement.  We were a bit short-handed today but it didn’t take away from the effort we gave.  We have a young core on both of our teams and we will only continue to build on top of that success.

Today capped a great day overall and now for the men’s unit, the team will turn its attention to regional and national competition, starting with the ECAC Division III Championship in Massachusetts on November 7.