PHILADELPHIA – Competing with a roster of all underclassmen a year ago, the University of the Sciences men's cross country team gained valuable experience at the 2017 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Championship.
This year, that unit is ready to take a step forward from the 12th place finish of 2017, when the 2018 Championship takes place this Sunday, Oct. 28 at Belmont Plateau.
This year's squad is not all that much older, as it only features a lone upperclassman in junior Scott Jacobs.
University of the Sciences' top seven runners are all underclassmen, including sophomore Johnathan Epstein, who has led the Devils in all four races this season.
Last year, Epstein finished 16th at the CACC Championship as a freshman, just one spot and less than one second away from All-CACC honors as a rookie. Epstein's 16th place finish was the best in the program since Georgiy Polyak placed 12th at the 2010 Championships, and was the best by a freshman since Nick Deangelis crossed ninth in 2009. His time of 27:59.7 was the 23rd-fastest in program history.
Fellow sophomore William Hallinan has been USciences' second runner to cross in all four races, setting a collegiate personal best in all four after most recently running a 29:38.4 at the Jack St. Clair Memorial hosted at Belmont Plateau on Oct. 13. Last year as a freshman, Hallinan made his collegiate debut at the CACC Championship, placing 70th as the fifth Devil to cross.
The third and fourth Devils to cross in three-of-four races this season have been freshmen Dylan Zuch and Isaac Hoskins. Zuch has been in the top-four in all four races, including third in the first two, while Hoskins has been in the top-five in every race, including third in the previous two.
The duo will experience their first CACC Championship this Sunday.
Experiencing their first CACC Championship a year ago were sophomores Christopher Cardace and Matthew Connolly. Cardace was the second Devil to cross as he finished in the top-half of the field of 91 as a freshman a year ago in 39th. He has not raced since the season-opener, but returns at the perfect time to give USciences valuable experience.
Connolly meanwhile has run a season-best in all four races this season, gaining momentum heading into this weekend.
University of the Sciences will also be bolstered by the return of sophomore Ryan Ward, who like Cardace, has not raced since the season-opener when he was the fourth Devil to cross in-between Zuch and Hoskins at the Wilmington Invitational.