When it came time to choose his 28 entrants for the SUNYAC cross country championship meet, Fredonia State head coach Tom Wilson left it up to his runners.
"The fastest 14 (men and women) from Oberlin go (to SUNYACs)," Wilson said. "By then, they've started to taper. That gives everyone a chance to be healthy. Everybody gets an opportunity to make the SUNYAC team."
The Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble was held Oct. 19 in a heavy rainstorm resulting in a muddy course. While the Blue Devils did not fare as well as Wilson would have hoped, his expectations remained the same for the SUNYAC meet Saturday at Fortin Park in Oneonta.
"We need a nice rebound race," he said. "We're looking for a pair of thirds this year. I won't let any of my runners wear watches, because their times mean nothing at SUNYAC's."
Some might say that shooting for anything below first place is setting the bar low. Yet it's realistic. The Cortland and Geneseo men are nationally ranked, while the Geneseo, Oneonta and New Paltz women are formidable opponents, as is Cortland.
Furthermore, third place for both Blue Devil teams would represent an improvement over last year. The Fredonia State men were fifth and the women sixth when the SUNYAC meet was run in a quagmire at Lake Erie State Park.
Wilson will send out a men's team led by junior Zakk Hess, who peaked around this time as a sophomore. He finished 25th at the SUNYAC meet, and followed that up with a 12th at the Atlantic Regional to earn a trip to the NCAA Division III championship meet.
Hess has been a consistent Top 5 finisher this fall, along with Steve Whittemore, Chris Shartrand, Kyle Collins and Collin Mulcahy. Wilson is hoping three of those five run well enough to make the All-SUNYAC team - a designation reserved for the first 15 finishers.
Also running for the Fredonia State men Saturday will be juniors Jonmichael Knapp and Jed Kovalovsky; sophomores Alex Crise (Fredonia) and Casey Swartz; and freshmen Robert Cooper, Cody Martini, Patrick Shenal and Patrick Walker.
Fredonia State's No. 1 woman throughout the fall has been senior Kim Foltz, and Wilson, again, is hoping she and two teammates are able to make all-conference. If that were to happen, the Blue Devils would be well on their way to finishing third.
"What it's been boiling down to this year," he said, "is the third, fourth, fifth, and displacement runners. It's really who's going to make a mistake and who's going to run as a tight team."
Including Foltz, Wilson will send out a veteran group comprised of seniors Alissa Conti (Fredonia), Anna Hourihan and Becca List; juniors Amanda Cocchiara, Emily Palmeri and Sarah Rocco; and sophomores Lauren Kotas and Katie Tresino. Five freshmen will run in their first SUNYAC race: Bonnie Binggeli, Kara Hall, Julia Johnson, Alyssa Stroud and Kelly Vincent.