LEESBURG, Va. – Senior captain Zach Michon won the individual title and three Hawks placed in the top 25 as the Saint Joseph's men's cross country squad took home a second-place team finish at the 2019 Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championship at the Oatlands Plantation on Saturday morning. SJU turned in an average 8k time of 25:52 for 99 points, finishing only behind La Salle (53 points).
The Hawks were seventh as a team at the 3k mark and fourth as a team at the 5k mark, but Michon, junior Matthew Scarpill, freshman Colin Kane, and sophomore George Steinhoff ran the races of a lifetime to turn in the program's eighth top-three finish in the last 11 years and 21st top-three finish in the last 31 years.
"They did everything I could have asked them to, and I've never been more proud of a second-place finish in my life," beamed 31st-year head coach Mike Glavin following the race. "The Atlantic 10 is not small-potatoes cross country. We talked about what it would take to win, but in some ways, I'm more proud of the fact that in the last 30 years heading into this race, St. Joe's had been first, second, or third 20 of 30 times. We love to win, but I believe in seconds and thirds, because that's what makes a team a program. You're always around. This is guys buying into what we do."
Paced by a 5:02.3 mile average, Michon claimed the title in 25:02.7, over 3.9 seconds faster than Ryan Kutch, the defending champion out of Fordham. Rounding the bend of the last 80 meters, Michon glanced over his shoulder, knew he had it, and pulled at the front of his singlet to display the "Saint Joseph's" across his chest to all of the cheering spectators just steps before crossing the finish line.
Michon was 18th at 3k and improved 14 places to sit fourth at 5k before picking off VCU's Hisham Vohra, Richmond's Miles Clikema, and Dayton's Kevin Lawson for the victory in the field of 128.
"I'm feeling awesome," beamed Michon following his win. "It feels really good to come out as a senior and have something to put a title on after all of the work I put in this summer and this season. A little bit between 1k to go and the finish, I took the lead and noticed that [Ryan] Kutch fell three or four meters behind . . . I wanted to capitalize on that. Coming up the one-finger hill, he made a surge on me, and coming down the hill, I caught him but kept that momentum going all the way to the finish to consequently put a little bit of a gap in it."
"Could I be more proud of Zach?" asked Glavin after the race. "Go look at his progress. He went in with the idea that winning was a possibility and came out with the idea that winning was a reality."
Scarpill crossed just 29.1 seconds after Michon for a ninth-place finish in 25:31.8. Paced by a 5:08.1 mile average, Scarpill improved 12 total places from 3k through the finish, a consistent six from the 3k to the 5k and six from the 5k to the finish line.
"This feels amazing," said Scrapill following his breakthrough A-10 performance. "Knowing I had this potential this entire year and after not being able to execute it the past two years, it was great being able to turn around and finally do the workouts with Zach and race off of Zach. It was definitely something special to make my appearance in the conference, and it was special for all the boys as well."
For their performances, Michon was named the race's Most Outstanding Performer while both Michon and Scarpill were awarded All-Conference honors for placing in the top 15. Michon is now a three-time All-Conference selection (10th in 2018, 15th in 2017).
The only "rookie" part of Kane's race was his class year, as the first-year made a name for himself on the conference stage with a 21st-place overall finish in 26:05.2, paced by a 5:14.8 mile average. Kane was 62nd at 3k and improved 22 spots to 5k before cruising by another 19 runners before the finish.
Kane finished just one place behind La Salle freshman Alex Sandras and missed Most Outstanding Rookie Performer honors by 3.6 seconds.
"We came here to do what we had to do," said Kane following the race. "We wanted to place as high as we could. I came in confident and knowing that my guys were going to race their best, and I just had to race my best and do it for the team."
"Kane ran a phenomenal race, and on a course this hard, it makes it that much more phenomenal," said Glavin of his freshman standout. "This is a punishing course, and he answered it."
The freshman couldn't have asked for a better veteran leader this season than Michon.
"It's been amazing," added Kane of training under Michon's wing. "Just seeing him in workouts and races, seeing him in the locker room, he's a role model to all of us. I really look up to him, and I hope one day I can compare myself to him."
Steinhoff continued the strong Crimson and Gray performances with a 31st-place finish in 26:17.7, his fastest 8k race of the season. Steinhoff jumped 38 places from 3k through the finish
"Kane and Steinhoff stepped up and ran the races of their seasons," added Glavin. "These are people that are 60 percent through the race and are still executing the race the way we talked about."
Junior Bobby Hastie closed the scoring strong with a 37th-place showing in 26:26.4 while senior Colin Gallagher (56th, 26:50.1) and senior captain John Walker (59th, 26:51.7) finished as SJU's #6 and #7 runners. Walker, SJU's consistent #2 runner all season, battled through injury to race with his teammates on the conference stage.
"I'm so proud of everybody on the team," closed Michon. "We had a lot of adversity that we had to face this season, but everybody really stepped up . . . I'm ecstatic for everyone. La Salle is a tough competitor and the A-10 is a really deep conference, and we really showed out today."
Michon becomes SJU's seventh A-10 cross country champion, joining Rad Gunzenhauser (2014), Andre Laboy (2003), Karl Savage (2000), John Williams (1998), and Matt Byrne (1995, 1996).
Eight select Hawks will return to action at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on Friday, November 15 at the Goodman Campus in Bethlehem, Pa. The 10k race is set for noon.