by Doug DeBiase, CACC Assistant Commissioner
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The 2016 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Men's and Women's Cross Country seasons are right around the corner, as September and early October will be a build up to the conference championship, which will be held on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia, Pa.
The 2015 season saw several impressive performances from teams and individuals, and the same is expected in 2016 as numerous CACC programs have their eyes not only set on the conference championship, but also making a push at the NCAA Regional Championship. The Wilmington University men's team and Philadelphia University women's team return as the defending CACC champions in 2016, as they will look to repeat once again this fall.
The following is a notebook/preview of each program heading into the 2016 season:
**All-CACC performer James Menendez, along with last year's rookie sensation Maurisio Nazario will look to lead a young Bears' squad in 2016.
**The incoming freshman class will be led by Isaiah Curbelo, who claimed the New Jersey State Sectional Championship in the 1,600-meter run indoors in 2016.
**D'liyah Brown returns in 2016 after earning All-CACC accolades last season by finishing in the top-15 at the conference championship. She will team with Leslie Castro, as the duo will lead a young squad early on.
**Bobbi Ayres leads the incoming crop of freshmen, as she posted a sub-20 minute time during her high school career.
**The Cougars return four of their top-five runners from last season, including Nicholas Calixto, who was the team's highest finisher at the CACC Championship with a 47th-place finish.
**Caldwell welcomes five newcomers to the fold this year, as the freshmen will have an opportunity to break into the top-five throughout the year.
**Caldwell returns seven harriers from last year's squad, which finished in the upper half of the conference championship. Among those seven are the team's top-three finishers at the NCAA Regional meet, including Victoria Thaler, Chiara Guida and Lila Morreale.
**The Cougars also welcome a freshman class of seven, who will also look to crack into the top five this fall.
CHESTNUT HILL COLLEGE
**The Griffins welcome back a trio of strong runners from a season ago, including Eric Barton(All-CACC), Sam Mondello and Ediegeo Vanterpool.
**The team will look to build upon its solid fifth-place showing (out of 13 teams) at last year's conference championship.
**Chestnut Hill will look to Raquel Lopez to lead the team this year, while also having high hopes for Emily Bensen-Abatangelo and a year's worth of improvement from the 2015 freshman class.
**The Griffins will aim to continue their rise up the CACC standings, as CHC will look to build upon its eighth-place showing at last year's conference meet.
**The Clippers will be one of the younger teams in the conference this season, as the team will have three first-time runners in 2016.
**Concordia will have more than enough experience running demanding race courses as it builds up to the CACC Championship. The Clippers will open the season on Sunday, Sept. 4, at the 14th Annual Baruch Invitational on the historic Van Cortlandt Park course in the Bronx.
**Concordia's women have nearly the same outlook as the men, as three Clipper thin clads will be competing as first-time runners this fall.
**The women will join the men on Sept. 4, at the Baruch Invite in Van Cortlandt Park.
**The Charger men turned in a respectable showing at last year's CACC Championship, as the new program finished 11th, thanks to a sixth-place finish from Booray Adam Nour. The other Charger to finish in the top 35 included Darren Guzman in 31st.
**It marked the first time the program had competed at the varsity level since 2006-07, as the school reinstituted the sport to varsity status prior to last fall.
**The Lady Chargers return four runners from last year, including senior captain Emily Lopez, who placed 32nd at the CACC Championship last year.
**Dominican will be well tested entering this season's CACC Championship race, as the Chargers will compete in six meets prior to the league championship.
**The men's program has a storied history competing in the CACC, as the Golden Falcons have won nine conference titles. The foundation for similar future success was laid last fall with first-year head coach Rob DeCarlo, Jr., as the team finished in the upper half of the CACC Championship meet.
** Team captain Mike Secreti will attempt to become the Golden Falcons' fourth all-region runner in 2016. He is a two-time All-CACC performer, two-time CACC Top XV Award winner and a 2015-16 CoSIDA Academic All-American.
**Felician will be led by the senior tandem of co-captains and fourth-year scorers Kate Rohsler and Sabrina Roldan. Roldan will be looking to re-capture the form that made her an all-conference honoree as a freshman in 2013.
**The Golden Falcons will receive a boost from junior-college transfers Alexis Jones and Kelly Murphy, both from Rowan College at Gloucester County. Both Jones and Murphy were 2016 NJCAA Track & Field All-Americans; Jones in the 3000-meter steeplechase and Murphy in the pole vault.
GEORGIAN COURT UNIVERSITY
**GCU returns everyone from last year's team, including top returnees Uriah St. Lewis andPatrick Parr, who each turned in strong individual showings at numerous races in 2015.
**Depth will also play in important role in 2016, as the team welcomes freshman recruits Kyle Bobash and Hussein Elmeshad to the mix.
**The Lions welcome back the services of two All-CACC harriers, Jess Handsaker and Hannah Vendetta. Handsaker placed third at last year's CACC Championship, while Vendetta was 14th, as the duo helped lead GCU to a solid third-place performance as a team.
**Georgian Court welcomes three rookies to the mix to provide youthful energy with strong upperclass leadership.
**Andrew Shearer will make his GBC debut as the program's new head coach in 2016, and he will have the services of a pair of runners who made strong showings in several races last season.
**Rudy Braxton finished sixth at the 2015 GBC Fall Classic and followed that up with a respectable 18th-place performance at the CACC meet. Victor Rueda-Jimenez was fifth at the GBC race and was 24th at the conference championship.
**Shearer will also benefit from the return of a duo of solid harriers on the women's side, including Jordan Dodson and Crystal McCollum.
**Dodson was eighth at the GBC Fall Classic and 21st at the CACCs, while McCollum was 13th at the GBC and 40th at the league race.
HOLY FAMILY UNIVERSITY
**Holy Family welcomes back Taurai Augustin, who transferred into the program last fall and had a solid 28th-place showing at the CACC Championship. Augustin, then earned All-CACC honors in track & field in the spring, while also claiming the Men's Track & Field Championship Top XV Award for producing the highest grade point average at the meet with a perfect 4.0 mark. He earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors as well.
**The Tigers are slated to return Ces Coleman, who earned All-CACC honors at last year's conference championship race with a 14th-place finish.
**First-year head coach Joubert Derival welcomes back a pair of All-CACC thin clads from 2015, including Ian Mirtile (3rd) and Thomas Trott (15th).
**Both Mirtile and Trott propelled the Warriors to an impressive second-place showing at the CACC Championship, as Nyack's top-five runners all finished among the top-22, includingMateusz Gacik, who was 19th.
**The women's team also placed second at last year's CACC Championship race.
**Nyack's hope for another strong showing at this year's conference race will be bolstered by the return of All-CACC runner, Ariana Nash, who placed sixth at last season's meet.
**The Rams were a young team last year, but grew as the season went along. Under the guidance of head coach Dave Thomas, PhilaU will look to make it two CACC titles in the last three years in 2016.
**One of the young runners for the Rams last season was then-freshman Ethan Fadale, who earned All-CACC accolades by finishing 13th at the league championship race.
**Thomas' women's program is one of the finest teams in all of NCAA Division II, as the Rams have won seven of the last eight CACC Championships.
**The defending conference champion had its top-five runners finish among the top 11 at last year's CACC Championship to earn all-conference status. Three of those five are slated to return in 2016, including Victoria Frisbie (4th), Juliana Coculo (9th, CACC Rookie of the Year) andJessica Thies (11th).
**The Eagles will be loaded with seniors in 2016, as five in all are sprinkled throughout the roster for first-year head coach Rick Hammer.
**One of the seniors is John Ducham, who finished sixth at the 2015 CACC Championship and finished among the top-10 individuals in six meets overall.
**Post returns its entire roster from the 2015 season, including Akia Callum, who was the squad's top finisher in all seven meets.
UNIVERSITY OF THE SCIENCES
**First-year head coach Richard DiGiacomo takes over a men's squad that was ninth at last year's CACC Championship.
**Tim Storino returns for his senior season after narrowly missing achieving All-CACC status by placing 16th at the conference championship. Christopher Robinson also returns after finishing a respectable 25th as a rookie at the 2015 championship.
**Two rookies who finished among the top-30 at last year's CACC race return as sophomores in 2016, including Regan Asay (19th) and Emily Brand (30th).
**The Devils will be young this season as no seniors comprise the 2016 roster. Despite no seniors (4 juniors, 3 sophomores), the Devils have a chance to grow over these next two seasons and take a run at improving upon a solid fifth-place performance at the 2015 CACC Championship.
**The Wildcats will look to make it two CACC titles in a row in 2016, as WilmU won the 2015 race with a team score of 52 points under the guidance of longtime coach Keith Jones.
**Four Wildcats who earned All-CACC status in 2015, are expected to return this year, includingKen Fontal (2nd), Andrew Milham (11th) and Miguel Suero (14th). Suero's brother, Manuel, just missed achieving All-CACC mention by placing 18th at the league meet.
**Wilmington placed fourth at last year's championship race thanks in large part to graduated senior Megan Ferrick, who was named the CACC Runner of the Year after finishing first.
The 2016 CACC cross country season begins the weekend of Sept. 3-4, as several programs will be competing in various races throughout the region. The CACC Championship will be held on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia, as once again USciences will serve as the host school for the event.
To earn All-CACC status at the conference championship, an individual must finish among the top 15. The top finisher overall will also be crowned the CACC Runner of the Year, while the top rookie finisher will be named the league's Rookie of the Year.
The Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference is an NCAA Division II Conference composed of 14 institutions in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The member institutions are Bloomfield College, Caldwell University, Chestnut Hill College, Concordia (N.Y.) College, Dominican (N.Y.) College, Felician University, Georgian Court University, Goldey-Beacom College, Holy Family University, Nyack College, Philadelphia University, Post University of Waterbury, University of the Sciences, and Wilmington University.