LOUDONVILLE, NY -- The Siena Men's and Women's Cross Country teams were projected to finish fifth and seventh, respectively, according to the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Polls released Thursday. The predictions match both the men's and women's respective finishes at last season's MAAC Championships.
On the men's side, 26-time defending MAAC Champion Iona was once again the clear cut favorite receiving 10 of 11 first-place votes and 120 points in the polling. Canisius was picked second and received the other first-place vote while picking up 98 points, to edge third place Manhattan (96). Marist (86) was slotted fourth, followed by the Saints (75) to round out the top-five.
"The men's team has gotten into a great pattern of replacing our graduating seniors without skipping a beat," said head coach John Kenworthy, who enters his fifth season guiding the men's and women's programs. "We have plenty of men who can compete for top-25 positions at the MAAC Championships this year, and that depth is going to be our best asset. We have no shortage of experienced athletes on the men's side that have the ability to get the job done."
Monmouth followed the Saints in the preseason poll, receiving 68 points while being picked sixth, while Rider (54), Quinnipiac (54), Fairfield (40), Niagara (23), and Saint Peter's (13) rounded out the polling.
The men are looking to build off their second consecutive fifth place finish at the MAAC Championships, which is tied for the best in program history (2004). The Saints are primed to attempt to best that record this fall, as they are set to return five of their top-seven runners headlined by sophomore Evans Kibet who became the program's first-ever All-MAAC performer following a 15th place finish at last season's championship race.
Iona also sat atop the women's preseason poll, receiving nine of 11 first-place votes and 118 points. The Gaels, which have also captured 11 of the past 12 MAAC women's titles, edged 2016 Runner-Up Quinnipiac which received 108 points and one first-place vote. Iona's two-point victory over the Bobcats in last year's championship race marked the closest margin since 2002.
Marist (85) was projected third, followed by Canisius (82), which received the other first-place vote, in fourth. Manhattan (75) was slotted fifth, just ahead of both Monmouth (71) and the Saints (65).
"This year's women's squad has the challenge of replacing a fantastic group of seniors who graduated this past spring, but we return an incredibly deep group, and I'm excited to add probably our most competitive freshman class to date," explained Kenworthy. "The women are certainly ready to continue moving up in the MAAC, and it should be a great fall."
Rider (46) checked in next after Siena in a distant eighth in the women's preseason poll, with Fairfield (39), Niagara (24), and Saint Peter's (12) rounding things out.
The women too are looking to build off an equally strong 2016 fall campaign in which the Saints achieved their best MAAC Championship race point total in a dozen years. While Siena did graduate a talented senior class this spring, the team is led by junior Sarah Forman who is coming off a highly decorated 2016-17 school year both in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. Forman set new records across the three sports last season, and was named All-MAAC in cross country following a 13th place finish at the conference championship race.
The Saints are set to open their 2017 cross country season on Friday, Sept. 1 with the Siena Short Course Twilight in neighboring Colonie at The Crossings of Colonie at 5 p.m. The 2017 MAAC Cross Country Championships will be hosted by Monmouth University on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Holmdel Park in Holmdel, New Jersey.