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XC is dominating, and they’re not done yet 

The Golden Eagles get hype at SUNYACS photo credit: Brockport Athletics Flickr

For the first time in program history, both men’s and women’s cross country teams finished second at SUNYACS. The women tied their highest finish in program history (2005, 2021, 2022), and the men recorded 35 points, their highest finish since 2002 and second lowest point total in program history (the lowest being 32 points scored by the 1970 team). Both sides are dominating the charts and are striding closer to the heels of nationally ranked powerhouse Geneseo. The men only lost by 12 points.  

Culture, coaching and mindset have been main factors leading to the team’s success, and with regionals this Saturday, both sides are ready to rumble. Head coach John Davis built the program up to where they stand now, and no one is getting in their way. 

“They just really believe deep in their bones that they belong at the top now,” Davis said. “Sean Killip said one of my favorite things right after the SUNYAC race about Geneseo that sums up this men’s and women’s program well. He crossed the line having seen what we just did as a team and said, ‘they’re just people like us.’ For so long, people have placed Geneseo on a pedestal, thinking they’re unbeatable, and over the last few years, our team has eroded that mindset. It’s really fun to see a team win and yet look like they just lost because they know we’re coming for them.” 

Both teams have been focused on their race execution more so than the outcomes. They’re focusing on the little things, sleep, nutrition, recovery, etc., and they’re process oriented, taking care of today instead of boggling over results. Kerry Flower, the women’s team returning national qualifier, placed second at SUNYACS earning her first-team all-conference. She credits her success to her teammates and Davis. 

“Much of the team who were not running came to support us; we had a cheering section that surrounded the entire course to champion us,” Flower said. “Coach Davis has been invaluable to my success. His training is exemplary. He told me that he would get me to XC Nationals in 2021, even though I did not believe it myself, but he did get me there, and it was my dream.” 

Kerry Flower with Coach Davis at SUNYACS photo credit: Brockport Athletics Flickr

Flower hopes to make it to nationals again this year and put herself in contention for an All-American spot, which consists of the top 40 finishers. Veronica Dailey placed 12 at SUNYACS earning her third team all-conference accolade. Davis explained that Dailey has been on a huge upswing this year and is hoping to sinch an individual spot to nationals as well. 

“This season for me has been full of mental growth, especially as I was heading into SUNYACS,” Dailey said. “I went into SUNYACS with the mindset that I have put in the hard work already over the past year to be fit so I just had to put that fitness to work in the same ways I was already doing in practice. It was my goal all season to be a SUNYAC medalist, and I will say that I could not have done it without Coach Davis. This one meant more than any other podium I have ever stepped foot on.” 

Physically preparing for races this season was tough for Dailey, but it’s because she pushed herself further than she ever had before.  

“I’ve really had to come out of my comfort zone during practice and push paces I never thought I could, especially in the practice setting. I believe that a lot of my success this summer in my road races and this season came from believing that I could hold fast paces for a long time and then execute them at practice,” Dailey said. 

Veronica Dailey at SUNYACS photo credit: Brockport Athletics Flickr

Paul Suflita, Jonathan Zavala and Dillon VanDemortel finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively on the men’s side, earning them each first team all-conference honors. Davis explains that the mindset going into regionals this weekend is no different than before, and the men are ready to fight for a team spot to nationals.  

“It’s just another race,” Davis said. “This team has had great vibes all year and has never made the moment bigger than it needs to be. I think our calmness and goofiness on race day has been what’s led to our success. We have faith in each other and faith in the work we’ve put in so we never feel like there’s a need for heroics for our team to succeed.” 

Suflita made the decision to postpone his PhD studies for a few months in order to come back for one more season as a Golden Eagle and is ready to leave it all on the course at regionals. 

“It may be my last collegiate race ever so there is nothing to lose,” Suflita said. “It may also be the last cross-country race for a few others on the team so there is no reason to do anything besides whatever it takes to get to the finish in top positions. We are at the point where sending just a few individuals to nationals would be disappointing. Our only thought is to make it as a team, and it will take everything we have this weekend to do that.” 

Paul Suflita making moves to the finish at SUNYACS photo credit: Brockport Athletics Flickr

The mindset for these athletes has been and is positive across the board. Their culture is something to be proud of. This is graduate student Dillon VanDemortel’s first season for the Green and Gold and his last season on a collegiate cross-country team. Needless to say, he’s giving it his all. 

“Something that stood out to me and has been prevalent throughout the season is the positive attitude and driven mentality by every individual,” VanDemortel said. “The way we support one another not only as a team but as a family is something that really hits home for me. Going into regionals the mindset is ‘get the job done, you didn’t put in all that work for nothing.’ Since this is my last cross-country season, I’m planning to give it everything I have for this team. No specific game plan, just make it hurt.” 

Dillon VanDemortel crossing the finish line at SUNYACS photo credit: Brockport Athletics Flickr

It’s all about the team. Each athlete, man and woman, is committed to one another. They’re in it as a unit, and that’s the kind of mentality that will pay off in the end. 

“I’m just really proud to be associated with this group of athletes. They have helped me focus on the right things this season as much as I have helped them. Our success is a credit to their hard work and the belief in this vision of what this program could be. It’s amazing to watch them bring this vision to reality,” Davis said.  

The Golden Eagles race Saturday, Nov. 12, at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester for the NCAA Regional Championship. The gun goes off at 11:00 a.m. for the women and noon for the men. Live results can be streamed at 

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