May 29, 2013
LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. - New Siena Cross Country Head Coach John Kenworthy has revealed his first recruiting class. A total of 11 student athletes - five men and six women - will comprise the Siena Cross Country Class of 2017.
"I'm really impressed with this incoming freshman class as a whole," noted Kenworthy. "They are not only great runners, but tremendous student athletes and people who love cross country and I'm excited to have them join the program."
A native of Setauket, N.Y., Austin Bitzas is St. Anthony's record holder in the 4x800 meters. He was a member of the 4x800-meter winning team at the New Balance Grand Prix and a multiple time All-League selection in both cross country and track.
"I'm looking for Austin to come in and contend for a spot in our top-seven right away," said Kenworthy. "He will be a great addition to the back side of our scoring group and eventually will be somebody we heavily rely on in the front of our pack."
A three-time team MVP at Morristown-Beard High School, Nick Cornine was a First Team All-NJAC selection. A native of Kinnelon, N.J., Cornine was named an All-Daily Record Honorable Mention.
"Nick's best years lay ahead of him as I think he will only get better as race distances increase from high school to college," Kenworthy said. "He has been running well in recent months and I can see him continuing to develop over the coming years and be a consistent scorer for us down the road."
Paolo Fiore who hails from Brightwaters, N.Y. was a three-time All-State selection at St. John the Baptist. A captain of both the cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams, Fiore finished sixth with a 5K time of 16:19 in leading the Cougars to a first place finish at the Brown University Invitational. The Tom O'Brian Scholar Athlete of the League recipient, he ran a personal best 5K time of 16:10 in placing in the top-10 at the Six Flags Wild Safari Invitational.
"Paolo is one of the CHSAA's best runners and I'm excited to welcome him to the program," Kenworthy noted. "His experience as part of a very successful high school program will allow him to transition well into our tight men's pack and I can see him contributing immediately this fall."
A native of West Seneca, N.Y., Shane Fiust-Klink was an All-Catholic selection. A team captain, Fiust-Klink was Canisius High's top finisher in three races last fall and was the overall individual champion against St. Francis.
"Shane has been a leader on his high school team and I think he can take that attitude straight in next fall," Kenworthy said. "He will be somebody who will definitely contribute to our depth and grow into a scorer for us through the years."
Bryant Hatala led Maine-Endwell High to three sectional titles. A team captain, he was a four-time NYS Scholar Athlete and was the recipient of the Section IV Class B Sportsmanship Award.
"Bryant will come in and tighten up our pack perfectly," added Kenworthy. "He's going to help us right away but also be pushed by our upperclassmen."
"The addition of this class offers a lot of support in the front as well as in our depth," Kenworthy commented on the men's freshmen. "Our pack has gotten tighter and bigger for this fall and when our seniors move on after that, we have a great group of guys developing and becoming ready to step up and keep our group moving forward."
On the women's side, Shannon Bauer helped guide Warwick Valley High to a fourth place finish in New York last fall. A member of Warwick Valley's sectional, country and conference champion squad, Bauer ran a personal record time of 20:54.40 in the New York State Championships last fall.
"Shannon has been having a great senior year and I can't wait for her to keep that momentum rolling into Siena," Kenworthy said. "She has spent some time as part of a very successful high school program and I suspect she will use those experiences to continue to excel over the next four years."
A local product from nearby Stillwater, Jackie Merchant was named a Wasaren League All-Star. She ran a personal best time of 20:32 at the Saratoga State Park course and was the recipient of the Warrior Award for her hard work and dedication.
"Jackie comes from a small high school program and is going to develop quickly at Siena," noted Kenworthy. "She has a ton of room to grow and is going to benefit from having a great group of teammates to push her day in and day out."
Castleton, N.Y. native Kelly Pasko holds Maple Hill High's 3K outdoor track (10:23) and 4x800-meter relay (10:12) school records. The 2012 Patroon Conference Champion in cross country, she holds the conference's meet record and finished fourth in the Section II Class C Championship and 19th at the Class C State Championships.
"Kelly has proven she can perform and win on some of the biggest stages and she's still growing and improving at an amazing rate," said Kenworthy. "I think Kelly will make an immediate impact this fall and be an integral part of our front pack for many years to come."
Annica Penn was a standout race walker at Westhampton, N.Y. high. She ranks fourth all-time nationally amongst high school students with a time of 6:39.32 in the 1500-meter race walk. She placed fourth at the 2012 USATF Junior Nationals in the 3000-meter race walk and was the National High School champion in the mile race walk.
"There's something to be said about Annica's success in race walking," Kenworthy explained. "That experience of performing and winning big time races will serve her well as she turns her attention more directly to cross country. While her running career in still in its youth, I expect that she will call upon her race walking experiences to make leaps and bounds on the cross country course in no time."
A native of Norwalk, Conn., Kelly Russo captained both the cross country and track and field teams at Academy of Our Lady of Mercy Lauralton Hall where she ran for Kenworthy. She posted a personal best 5K time of 20:57 and was a state qualifier in the 1600-meters.
"Kelly has the heart of a lion," notes Kenworthy. "Despite battling injuries all throughout high school, she's run some solid times. I'm confident that the staff and resources available to her at Siena will allow her to help contribute to our team's depth in the coming years."
As only a sophomore, Ursula Svoboda was named the Journal News Rockland Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. A native of Suffern, N.Y., Svoboda was also a First Team All-Section and First Team All-Rockland County selection after finishing first at the Rockland County Championships (18:24.17), Suffern Invitational (18:45.79) and Section I Coaches Invitational (18:42.17).
"Ursula has such exciting potential for us," said Kenworthy. "She was one of the best runners in New York before injuries prevented her from training and racing at the level she was used to. When we get her healthy and training consistently she will be a star for us."
"With such young talent on the women's side as a whole, this class will help the team continue to improve and ascend the MAAC," Kenworthy added. "The future looks very bright with the addition of this young group of women."
The eleven incoming freshman join a Siena Cross Country program on the rise. The men enjoyed their best finish at the MAAC Championships since 2004 last fall, while the women return a talented group of underclassmen which paced the program in 2012.