Unlike past seasons, when the race was run at Lake Erie State Park, this year's Invitational will be run on the Fredonia campus. It's the only home meet of the season.
Four other schools will join the Blue Devils on the starting line: D'Youville, Gannon, Hilbert, and Mercyhurst. Fredonia won both races in 2015, while Mercyhurst was second in both.
A five-kilometer course has been laid out for Saturday's two races: women at 10 a.m. and men at 11 a.m. The start and finish lines are located just east of the University Stadium turf field.
Part of the course will run through the Phillips-Ulrich Community Trail, a 1.5-mile trail through campus woodlands named in honor of Fredonia Athletics Hall of Fame coaches Dr. Everett Phillips and Jim Ulrich.
(SEE: Course Map)
Mulcahy among returning men
The Fredonia men return four runners who made the 2015 NCAA Atlantic Regional field, led by graduate student Collin Mulcahy (Batavia, N.Y./Batavia). Also an NCAA national racer last year, Mulcahy finished eighth at regionals after a 10th-place run at the SUNYAC meet.
Also back from last year's regional septet are senior Bobby Cooper (Macedon, N.Y./Gananda), junior Merlin Joseph Jr.(Binghamton, N.Y./Binghamton), and sophomore Ethan Francis (Dunkirk, N.Y./Dunkirk).
The key loss is Kyle Collins (Suffern, N.Y./Suffern), last year's fourth-place finisher at the conference meet – earning him a spot in the SUNYAC Cross Country Hall of Fame – and the ninth-place finisher at regionals. Collins, like Mulcahy, participated at the national meet.
The Blue Devil men finished second at last year's conference meet, which helped earn Head Coach Tom Wilson the distinction of SUNYAC Men's Coach of the Year. It was the team's best standing in 16 years.
Five of top seven women back
The Fredonia women were fourth at the 2015 SUNYAC meet and return five runners who appeared at the Atlantic Regional, led by senior Bonnie Binggeli (Walworth, N.Y./Ruben A. Crillio). The other four are seniors Julia Johnson (Baldwinsville, N.Y./C.W. Baker) and Kara Hall (Byron-Bergen), and sophomores Hannah Kurbs (Lockport, N.Y./Lockport) and Stephanie Wojnowski (Rochester, Eastridge).
As with the men, last year's top runner has moved on. Laura Morrison (Wethersfield, Conn./Wethersfield) graduated in May after a stellar running year. She appeared in three national, including last year's cross country meet in her first season in the sport. She was the first Fredonia female to run at cross country nationals since 2002, where she finished 61st. She was also sixth at SUNYAC and 10th at the Atlantic Regional.
Opening meet strategy
Wilson provided the following thoughts on the opening meet:
Women: "The main focus will be running as a tight group. Mercyhurst will be a very tough team to beat, however we do have the power in numbers to take on the task. Key returners are Bonnie Binggeli, Hannah Kurbs, Stephanie Wojnowski, Julia Johnson and Kara Hall. Thus far, Brenna Donovan, Carly DeBono, Alyssa Stroud look very strong early on this season. We did win the meet last year and I would like to kick off the season with another win over a D-2 program. As always, I am looking for our freshmen to stay smart and aggressive, take some chances."
Men: "Our main focus must be on our fifth and sixth runners. The return of Collin Mulcahy will give us an edge in the front of the race, while Bobby Cooper, Merlin Joseph and Ethan Francis work together for a tight finish. Cyd Scott and Jack Erhard are looking strong thus far to round out the top six early on. It will be nice to see them men work together and push one another to strong finishes. Again, I will be looking for my freshmen to take some chances, work outside their comfort zone."