STANDISH, ME – The Saint Joseph's College men's cross country team competed in nine events and placed fifth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship meet under the watch of first-year Head Coach Ray Putnam last fall.
Coach Putnam worked with nine men's runners in 2011, including DI transfer Faisal Abdillahi (Lewiston, Maine) who paced the Royal Blue in five events in his first season at St. Joe's. Abdillahi capped the fall with a 28:21 time in the NCAA DIII New England 8K Men's Cross Country Championship, the fastest effort by an SJC runner in the regional event since Ryan Prescott '09 posted a 27:02 performance in the 2008 New England meet.
The 2011 campaign kicked off with an appearance in the 6K University of Maine-Farmington Invitational, a race in which the Monks placed fourth out of eight teams with 119 team points. Freshman Joe DiSalvo (Derry, N.H.) led the Royal Blue with a 22:39 time, which was good for seventh overall.
Up next was the 8K University of New England Invitational, which was held at Rotary Park in Biddeford on September 10th. DiSalvo led the pack again, this time with a 30:18 effort to place 16th out of 99 runners. Saint Joseph's did not score in the event due to an injury sustained by one of the team's five competitors.
The Monks then traveled to Nashua, N.H. to compete in the Rivier College Invitational on Friday, September 23rd. Abdillahi placed fifth overall with a stellar 27:51 time and DiSalvo was close behind, placing seventh with a 27:53 performance, as the pair helped lead the Royal Blue to a fourth-place finish.
A week later Saint Joseph's made the trek to Waterville, Maine for an appearance in the 8K Colby College Invitational, a meet in which the Monks posted a runner-up effort with 61 team points. DiSalvo finished third with a 30:23 time and Abdillahi placed fifth after touring the 8K course in 30:40.
Saint Joseph's went on to host the 8K Runnin' Monks Invitational on October 8th and placed fifth out of nine programs with 138 points. DiSalvo notched his fourth top-10 finish of the year with a 29:27 time - good for ninth overall - while Abdillahi placed 17th with a 30:56 effort.
The Monks' annual home event signaled the end of the regular season, as the championship portion of the schedule was about to begin, starting with the State of Maine Championship, which was held at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester on October 15th. Abdillahi led the team with a 29:35 performance and placed 70th out of 159 runners and St. Joe's finished ninth out of 12 teams with 257 points in the state meet.
Up next was the GNAC Championship, which was held at historic Franklin Park in Boston on October 29th. The Monks would record the team's lowest point total (141) in three years and placed fifth in the conference meet for the second consecutive season. With a 28:49 time and subsequent 14th-place finish, Abdillahi narrowly missed All-Conference accolades – presented annually to the top 10 finishers – while DiSalvo, who placed 17th, was close behind with a 28:58 performance.
With the conference meet in the rear-view, the Monks would go on to compete in a pair of regional competitions: the ECAC Championship on November 5th and the NCAA New England Regional on November 12th.
St. Joe's ran to a 40th-place finish in the ECAC meet, which was hosted by Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Abdillahi paced the SJC pack with a 28:58 time and finished 97th out of 300 runners overall.
The Monks ran to a 46th-place finish in the NCAA Regional, which was hosted by Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Abdillahi's 28:21 time was good for 192nd out of 322 participants, while senior Andrew Mockler (Saco, Maine) capped his NCAA career with a personal-best 29:56 performance and placed 258th overall.
The final race of the 2011 campaign closed out the collegiate careers of Mockler and Jeffrey Letellier (Biddeford, Maine), the Monks' lone seniors. The duo combined to compete in 49 events during their time at Saint Joseph's.
First-years Matthew Boucher (Augusta, Maine) and Jeff Merrill (Fitchburg, Mass.) shaved at least two minutes off their respective 8K times and both runners figure to make more significant impacts on the trails as their college careers progress.