SMITHFIELD, R.I – Sean Ferguson became the first male in program history to capture the Northeast Conference title, helping lead the Sacred Heart men's cross country team to a second place finish at the NEC Championships on Saturday morning, its best in program history.
Crossing with a time of 24:51.2, Ferguson held off Ryan Hertzog of Central Connecticut State by six seconds to win his fifth race in six events. Hertzog broke away early in the race and established a 10-second lead over Ferguson and a small chase pack. Ferguson gradually closed the gap over the middle part of the race, and finally passed Hertzog at the 4-mile mark. Hertzog challenged one more time around 4 ½ miles, but Ferguson pulled away over the next ¼ mile, building his eventual six second margin of victory over that ¼ mile stretch that he then held until the finish.
In addition to joining Katie Wrinkle (2003) and Kim DeLoreto (2009) as the only individual champions in program history, Ferguson became just the third male Pioneerto turn in three All-NEC performances, joining Jeff Lusignan and Christopher Connelly. He previously finished 13th in 2012 and 6th in 2013.
SHU's 79 total points, its second lowest in program history, were not enough to knock off the now seven-time defending champion Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. CCSU had five of the top nine finishers for a total 30 points. Third place Bryant was the only other team to crack the 100-point barrier with 91.
A year after joining Ferguson as the second freshman in program history to earn All-NEC honors, Trevor Guerrera joined Ferguson as the only sophomore to turn in consecutive All-Conference performance to begin a SHU career. With a new personal best of 25:31.6, he finished seventh, improving on crossing 14th last season.
Joining Ferguson and Guerrera to have three individuals earn All-NEC honors for the time in program history was Timothy Loehner. Completing the course in 26:01.6 to place 12th, he imposed on his personal best by 29 seconds for his first career All-Conference performance. He was 33rd at the 2014 Championships.
A year after finishing the Championships in 44th, Andrew Handfield turned in a top 20 performance as Sacred Heart's fourth finisher, crossing 20th in 26:35.6. Although the time was just .7 second off of a new personal best, he has still improved on his best by an impressive 1:49 this season. Rounding out the top five was Michael Giambrone with a time of 27:55.7, good for 44th place.
Sacred Heart will take off next weekend before returning to competition at the NCAA Northeast Regionals, held at Franklin Park in Boston, Mass., November 13 at 11 am.
Head Coach Christian Morrison on Ferguson
"This win by Sean is the culmination of three and a half years of working hard and doing things the right way. His rate of development as a runner during this time is not something you see very often. I'm very happy for him, and I'm honored to be his coach."
Morrison on the Overall Team Performance
"We exceeded expectations because we were only picked to finish 6th in the NEC preseason coaches' poll, but we didn't exceed our own expectations. We met them. Finishing at least 2nd in this championship has been our team goal since we finished the outdoor season. The leadership of Sean, and the improvement of Trevor, Tim, Andrew and the rest of our sophomore group – this is what made it possible. I like the direction we're headed in."
-SHU's prior best finish at the NEC Championships was 3rd, which it did in 2007, 2008, and 2010.
-The Pioneers' lowest ever point total occurred in 2010, when they scored 74 en route to a third place finish.
-Guerrera has improved his best by a total of 42 seconds this season.
- Sacred Heart previous high for All-NEC was two individuals, which it did 6 times, in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.