NEW ORLEANS - The Northeast Region will have a pair of tough Columbia teams to deal with, as the USTFCCCA released its preseason rankings today. The Columbia men came in at No. 3 in the Northeast, while the women were the No. 6 ranked team in the region.
When the National preseason coaches poll came out on Tuesday, the Columbia men came in as the No. 29 ranked team, and the only school from the Ivy League in the top-30.
On the men's side, the Lions return a pair of NCAA Qualifiers that have found success early in their career. Brian Zabilski enters his junior year having already hoisted an Ivy League trophy his rookie season, before running for Team USA at the PanAm Junior Cross Country Championships. Zabilski also excelled on the track during his first two years, earning All-Ivy recognition in the outdoor 5,000m in 2016 and qualifying for the NCAA East Prelims in the same event in 2017.
Kenny Vasbinder was the other qualifier for the men a year ago, shining on the course as a rookie. During the 2016 Cross Country season, Vasbinder became the first Columbia newcomer to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships, finishing the 10K in 31:05.4. The East Aurora, New York, native was a second team All-Ivy League honoree last fall when he claimed 11th at the conference meet.
Although the Columbia women present a younger team, they do bring forth runners with big-time race experience.
Junior Julia Sienski comes back as the highest placing returner from the 2016 Ivy League Cross Country Heps, when she finished 33rd in 21:24.8 over the 6K course. Not far behind was junior Emily Acker in 35th, and senior Nell Crosby in 36th.
It was Crosby who went on to impress during the spring season, when she became an All-American on the track. The Colorado native found her stride in the steeplechase during her first season competing on the oval, claiming second in her heat during the NCAA East Prelims, and going on to finish 16th in the NCAA in the event. On the course, Crosby helped the Lions to a runner-up finish at the Princeton Invitational last fall, and was the second best Columbia runner at the Northeast Regional.
Senior Erin Melly also returns for the Lions, and will look to have a strong fall after twice advancing to the NCAA East Prelims during her track & field career. Sophomore Abby McLaughlin also could play a factor, after gaining confidence during the outdoor track season by advancing to the East Prelims in the 10,000m run, and clocking the seventh best time in school history at that distance.
The Lions kick off the season at Van Cordlandt Park on Friday, Sept. 8 during the Columbia XC Invite.