HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s cross country team has been picked to finish first in the 2015 Big South preseason poll, the league office announced Wednesday.
After winning the 2014 conference title in commanding fashion, the Panthers have been selected to repeat as champions in the poll conducted by the league’s head coaches.
High Point received 113 points and four first place votes to top the poll. Liberty is second with 110 points (four first place votes), while Campbell (three first place votes) rounds out the top-3 with 107 points.
“It’s an honor that other coaches think this highly of our program. We will work tirelessly this fall to ensure we earn this ranking,” head coach Mike Esposito said. “It will not be easy. I think this is the most competitive the league has been in several years. We will need some guys to step up to win a second-straight title and I have confidence our team is up to the challenge.”
High Point returns four of its top-7 runners from a year ago, including 2014 Big South Runner of the Year and individual conference champion Jeff LaCoste. The Panthers also return all-Big South selections Ryan Udvadia and Paddy Grandinali, as well as seniors Benji Szalai and Cody Seymour and juniors Vinny Todaro and Chernet Sisay.
HPU also welcomes freshmen Alejandro Torres (Elche, Spain) and Bryan Gonzalez (Rochelle Park, N.J.).
HPU won the Big South title in 2014 while posting a program record six all-conference selections. The team then placed seventh at the NCAA Southeast Regional, which tied for the best ever finish in school history.
A number of HPU runners are coming off outstanding track & field seasons in 2015. Todaro won the 1500m Big South title (3:54.58) at the league’s outdoor championship in May and earned all-conference honors as part of HPU’s DMR team during the indoor season. Sisay (10000m) and Szalai (3000m steeplechase) both picked up critical points for HPU during the Big South Outdoor Championship with strong finishes in their individual events. Udvadia was a two-time all-conference selection in indoor (3000m) and outdoor (1500m) with top-3 finishes in each event.
Grandinali finished third in the 5000m run to pick up all-conference honors during the outdoor season and qualified for NCAA Preliminary action in the 10000m, where he finished 27th, close to 15 spots better than his seed entering the race.
HPU kicks off the 2015 cross country season with a trip to Burlington to compete in the Elon Invitational on Sept. 4.
2015 Big South Men’s Cross Country Preseason Poll
1. High Point (4) – 113
2. Liberty (4) – 110
3. Campbell (3) – 107
4. UNC Asheville – 73
5. Radford – 72
6. Winthrop – 68
7. Coastal Carolina – 61
8. Longwood – 46
9. Charleston Southern – 29
Gardner-Webb – 29
11. Presbyterian College – 18