KINGS POINT, N.Y. – U.S. Merchant Marine Academy men's head cross country Greg Lott has some modest goals at the Landmark Conference Championship this weekend: To get the Mariners' program to finish as strong as last year if not better.
The Mariners took sixth place in 2010.
This year's championship will be held in Bethlehem, Pa. and hosted by Moravian College.
"I'm thrilled with the progress of our team," Lott said. "It's a young team, which is very exciting for the future. The have built a base for an extremely successful program for the future."
Kings Point will take 15 runners to the conference meet, a team that is dominated by freshmen. The Mariners have four seniors on the team, one in the top 10 -- Logan Swan, who finished seventh overall at last week's St. Joseph's Invitational at Sunken Meadow Park in Kings Park, N.Y. The two top freshmen are David McGowan, who finished sixth, and Alex Megeff, who was close behind.
The Mariners are accustomed to the course in Bethlehem, having competed at the Paul Short Invitational on Sept. 30.
"They should have a pretty high level of comfort," Lott said. "I have hopes that everyone will run within himself and not be too aggressive too early."
Lott is hopeful he will see the best from that trio this week. He said McGowan and Megeff were "inexperienced and very talented." He added that Swan, who "has made a lot of strides over the past few years," will bring "some leadership to this group."
While cross country comes down to the individual runner, Lott hoped the three runners will work together.
"How the three of them work together and perform will determine how the team finishes at the end," he said.
Beyond the top three runners, Lott is likes his team's depth.
"I have complete faith in our depth," he said. "I believe we are the deepest team in the conference. We have 12 guys who run on regular basis with everybody's top seven."
The entire freshmen crop has been promising and encouraging in their initial year at college racing, but Lott realized there is a lot to learn. One big adjustment is the distance. In high school, the runners will race along a 5-kilometer course. In college, the distance is expanded to 8K.
"That really is whole new world," Lott said. "That's something our guys are doing a real good job at it, but it's something they haven't fully grasped yet."
The top five finishers of each school will score points. As many as seven runners from a school can displace points from a competitor, but not earn points for a particular college.
"We have guys who place very high but don't affect the score," Lott said. ""It's a little frustrating. . . . It's really looking good for the future."
And about that future.
Regardless how the Mariners fare, the conference championship is just the start of three key meets over a two-week span. The Mariners also will compete at the ECAC Championships at Mt. Greylock in Williamstown, Mass. on Nov. 5 and at the NCAA Division III Atlantic Regional qualifying meet at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. on Nov. 12.
Photo: The Mariners men had to run through freezing, windy and snowy conditions at the Landmark Championships.