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Merrimack qualifies for Nationals for first time in program history

AMHERST, N.Y. – For the first time in program history, the Merrimack College men’s cross country team is headed to the national championship meet. Two all-region performances and a stellar performance from every racer in the lineup powered the Warriors to a third-place team finish at the 2017 NCAA East Regional Championship hosted by Daemon College. Merrimack will now race against the top programs in the country in two weeks in Evansville, Indiana.

The Basics
Results: Merrimack – (3rd/23­)
Top Finisher: Keith Steinbrecher (7th – 33:35.9)
Location: Audubon Golf Course (10K Course) // Amherst, N.Y.

What They Said: 
Head coach Chris Cameron: “Just an absolutely phenomenal job by the men today. The coaching staff could not be more proud of these great young men for putting everything they had on one of the most difficult courses we’ve run this season, if not the most difficult. With mud bowls and water throughout the 10K race, it really was a testament to how mentally tough we were, and to see our men earn the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA National Championships is so incredible. It’s been a long time coming for our program, and it’s great to see so much hard work finally pay off!”

How It Happened:

  • After a 38th-place finish at the Northeast-10 Conference Championship two weeks ago, senior captain Keith Steinbrecher (Wading River, N.Y.)rebounded with one of his best races as a Warrior, earning all-region honors for the second year in a row after finishing in seventh place on Saturday. The Wading River, New York, native finished in 33:35.9, averaging a 5:25 mile. He had a 9:49.3 split at the 3K mark and a 24:13.7 split at the 7.2K split.
  • Classmate Christian Gentile (Melrose, Mass.) was the next-best finisher, earning all-region accolades, as well, with a 24th-place showing. Gentile crossed the line in 34:34.1, averaging a 5:34 mile and was just under 10 minutes at the 3K split.
  • Senior Connor Murphy (Paxton, Mass.) and junior John Sava (West Newton, Mass.) had huge outings, as well, as each finished back-to-back and 28th and 29th place, respectively. Murphy (34:46.7) was just about a second quicker than Sava (34:48.8), as the two averaged a 5:36 mile and were neck-and-neck for the entirety of the race.
  • Merrimack’s top finisher at the NE10 Championship meet, senior Niall Coughlin (Castleton, N.Y.) rounded out the top-five and helped seal the program’s ticket to nationals with his 33rd-place finish on Saturday. Coughlin ran the race just inside of 35 minutes (34:58.2) and averaged a 5:38 mile.
  • With five finishers in the top-33 of the individual leader board, Merrimack edged Roberts Wesleyan for third place and, most importantly, the final automatic bid to the national championship meet. The Warriors will be making their first-ever appearance at nationals two weekends from now.
  • NE10 champion Stonehill won the regional title with 39 team points, ahead of second-place AIC (105).

Up Next
Merrimack will rest for a week before making its long-anticipated trip to Evansville, Indiana, where the 2017 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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