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October 11, 2008 at Van Cortlandt Park, New York NY.   DyeStat on-site.

"Vanny's Theme"
- the color of the Manhattan Invitational - Video by Marc Davis

36th Manhattan features strongest boys field ever
and US#1 Fayetteville-Manlius NY girls

Meet adds Boys Eastern States race, computerized scoring and new sponsor -- Reebok.

by John Nepolitan

 The Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational bills itself as “The Biggest and The Best”.  Over the years without a doubt it has been one of the largest meets in the nation and year in and year out it does bring together most of the teams and individuals in the Northeast and many guests from across the nation to test themselves over the famed 2.5 mile Van Cortlandt Park layout. 

In 2008 the meet has taken one step closer to fulfilling its claim, for the first time a boy’s championship race will be part of the schedule, matching the girls with an Eastern States  race, bring together the areas very best.  Another major change has been the meets great leap forward with on line entry of teams and a promise of complete computer results, putting the volunteer typists out of work. 

The news of the boys championship section have resulted in a flood of teams looking to test themselves against the best and some being rejected from the Easterns and moved into other races.  For years the Fordham Invitational the week following the Manhattan Meet hosted the Boys Easterns race and in its long history it was not uncommon to see waves of runners flooding over the line in the championship section.  In recent years the Fordham meet has lost some of its luster and in 2008 folded, opening the way for Manhattan meet director Ed Bowes to change his format and create a boy’s championship race instead of spreading out the talent across flights as in the past.  The girls race itself will be a star filled field with a number of national and regional ranked teams toeing the line battling for the championship watches. 

Here is a fast look at what fans are in store for this Saturday in the Bronx.
(All rankings are based on information as of 10/6)

Boys Eastern States Championship (2:37pm)
Without a doubt this is the strongest field of boys teams ever assembled in meet history and many experts and old timers have been talking about it being the deepest field ever assembled at “Vanny”.   While there are many teams entered there is no clear cut favorite and as the racers sprint for the finish, final team standings may change many times.  Among the top seeded teams are:

Shenendehowa (NY) – The #1 team in New York which recently ran its “A” team at the Grout meet and showed that they are ready to race.
Don Bosco Prep (NJ)– Northeast #3 off to a slow start having only raced their “A” team once in taking the Warwick Wave Mania with a team total time 3:00 faster than the runner up.  The 10th place NTN team in 2007 brings back 5 of its 7 , graduating #2 and #7.
West Windsor Plainsboro North (NJ)  - #2 Northeast coming off a big win at the large Shore Invite and led by soph Joe Rosa who should be in the hunt for the individual crown.
Christian Bros Academy (NJ) – The always powerful Jersey school is back in the hunt for a 3rd trip to Portland for the Nike Cross Championship and stands as the #1 team in the Northeast.

Leading the challenge from outside the New York metro area will be Jamestown (VA) and Brookwood (GA) ranked #1 and #2 in the Southeast.  Other teams in the hunt areNE#6  Morris Hills(NJ), SE#4 Oakton(VA), 2 time NTN qualifier and NE#5 Danbury (CT) , NE#8 Haddonfield(NJ), led by Jon Vitez, NY#4 Fayetteville-Manlius (NY), led by individual title contender Alex Hatz, and Massachusetts powers Oliver Ames and St John’s.

Girls Eastern States Championships (2:52pm)
Just as the crowd will begin to settle down from the boys race the girls top teams and individuals will start to charge toward the finish line.  While the boys championship race is new to the meet, a girls seeded race is nothing new and over the years has seen nationally ranked teams collect championship Manhattan watches. 

Here is a look at some of the top teams and individuals

Fayetteville –Manlius (NY) – If you are looking for a top seeded team you do not have to look very far as the  2-time defending NTN Champions are back and loaded.  At the McQuaid Invitational a little over 1 week ago the ladies from the Syracuse area, broke their own meet record for total team time, faster than the 2007 NTN Champions and that is without one of its key players Hannah Luber who was nursing a slight injury.  Luber is back and ran to victory this past weekend at the Tully Invite.  Currently “FM” is ranked #1 in the USA.  A number of Fayetteville runners will be in contention for the individual crown including Courtney Champman, Luber, Molly Malone and Mckenzie Carter.

Burnt Hills Ballston Lake (NY) – One team that can match Fayetteville through three runners is Burnt Hills from the powerful Capital region of New York.  Led by Sam Roecker, Molly Pezzulo and Meagan Gregory --  all of whom will be in the running for the individual crown --  Burnt Hils will be in the mix early and will have to hope that its 4 and 5 runners can stay close enough.  Burnt Hills is currently ranked #4 in New York and #8 in the USA. 

Lincoln Sudbury (MA) – Currently ranked #1 in the Northeast, the Massachusetts school has made the trip west to the NTN Championships and knows what it is like to be in a big time fast paced race.  They will be looking to show that high school cross country is not the sole domain of New York state.

Saratoga (NY) – Many times winners of this race, Saratoga may have the greatest winning tradition of any girls program in the nation.  There were many questions about this team entering the season, but they were dispelled by an opening effort at the Oatlands Invite in Virginia with a 17 second 1-5 spread, scoring just 33 points to beat Oakton(VA) the Southeast #7 team at the time and in the Easterns.

Other teams and individuals to look for:  SE #7 Midlothian (VA), NY#4 Shenendehowa (NY), defending New Jersey champion Voorhees, led by Lanie Thompson, who recently defeated many of the runners in the Easterns in winning the Bowdoin Classic.  SE#1 Tatnall (DE) will travel north for the 2nd time in 2008 having already won the Cherokee Challenge in New Jersey.  California #3 Great Oak makes the trip across the country and will see if they can break the east coast stranglehold on the team title, Three-time Footlocker finalist Shelby Greany will lead her Suffern (NY) team once again and will look to grab her first Manhattan individual win.  Also:  NY#5 Queensbury (NY), Massachusetts #1 Oliver Ames, and New Hampshire #1 Hanover.

Other Races

Top individuals and teams are not only found in the Easterns, but a number are spread out over the remaining Varsity races. 

The Boys “B” race (scheduled for 1:25pm) will feature North Penn (PA) currently #7 in the Northeast. 

One of the faster times of the day might come out of the “D” race (scheduled for 1:49pm) which will feature Mike Hickey of Pearl River(NY).

The best individual race may be the “E” race (scheduled for 2:01pm) as three of the best from New Jersey take on one of the best from New York.  Chris Stogsdill (Marcellius, NY) is so far undefeated and each time out has had the best time of the day including a 14:49 3 mile win at the McQuaid Invitational.  New Jersey will be represented by Bobby Andrews (Manalapan) runner up at the Penn Relays mile, 4:08 miler Brett Johnson (Ocean City) and 9:04 3200 meter runner Tyler Udland of Millburn(NJ). 

In the “G” race (scheduled for 2:25pm) is current New York #2 Shoreham Wading River which has seen the top of the Empire State rankings in 2008.  

While the top girls teams also have most of the top individuals, the best time of the day may come out of the “A” race (scheduled for 3:04pm) where 2 time Footlocker finalist Emily Jones (Bromfield, MA) is slated to run.