Albano, Felician Dominate Fast Highlander Challenge

James Vander Wiele, Felician's only senior. (Steven R. Smith)
James Vander Wiele, Felician's only senior. (Steven R. Smith)


NEWARK, N.J. -- A new race for the Felician College men's cross-country team yielded two familiar results on Sunday -- a team victory for the Golden Falcons and an individual championship for junior Rob Albano (Pompton Plains, NJ). At the Highlander Challenge, hosted by New Jersey Institute of Technology at Branch Brook Park, Albano set school and meet records and Felician, ranked No. 7 regionally in NCAA Division II, bested 15 opponents.

Albano became the first runner in the 11-year history of the Felician program to break 25 minutes for 8,000-meters, turning in a 24:59 in the 135-competitor race. He defeated the runner-up by 17 seconds, set the meet record by 21, and shattered his own school standard, set nine days earlier, by 41.

It was the fourth invitational victory of Albano's career, and the sixth time in the last three years that Felician has won a meet as a team, including the 2010 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference title.

Sunday marked the first time Felician had ever run the Highlander Challenge, and all eight Golden Falcons took advantage of the flat, flast Branch Brook course to set personal bests. Junior Taylor Trumbetti (Montvale, NJ) became the first Felician runner other than Albano to break 26 minutes, placing sixth overall in 25:56. Senior James Vander Wiele (Pequannock, NJ) eclipsed the personal best he set in his freshman season by running a 26:09 and finishing 11th.

For the second consecutive week, freshman Steven Omari (Cherry Hill, NJ) landed in the fourth scoring position, placing 21st overall in 26:51. Classmate Keenan Huggins-Filozof (Farmingdale, NJ) was a scorer (top 5 on team) for the first time in his career, with his time of 27:02 good for 23rd. Huggins-Filozof was one spot and 14 seconds ahead of junior Tim Kicha (Saddle Brook, NJ). Click here for complete results.

Felician's 50 points were 47 fewer than runner-up Stevens Institute of Technology. The Golden Falcons also bested two other CACC schools on the day.