TOWSON, Md. --- The Moravian College cross country squads had a total of seven runners earn 2018 Landmark All-Conference honors this past Saturday at the 2018 Landmark Conference Championships hosted by Elizabethtown College at Union Canal Tunnel Park in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Sophomore Natalie Novotni won the women's individual title and was selected as the Women's Runner of the Year while being joined on the All-Conference First Team by junior Katie Mayer. Junior Carly Danoski and freshman Natalie Stabilito earned spots on the All-Conference Second Team with Stabilito being named the Women's Rookie of the Year as the top freshmen finisher in the race. The Greyhounds finished as the runner-up as a team by four points to the host Blue Jays.
Juniors Gregory Jaindl and Gavin Kemery earned spots on the Landmark All-Conference First Team for the men while freshman Dominic DeRafelo was on the All-Conference Second Team and the Men's Rookie of the Year as the trio helped the Greyhounds place third in the meet.
Novotni was first among the 81 runners in the field with a career-best time of 22:58.60 on the 6,000-meter course. Mayer placed sixth in 23:29.23 as she earned All-Conference honors for the third time in her career after being the 2016 Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year and on the All-Conference First Team in 2016 and the Second Team in 2017.
"Natalie has made a steady ascension ever since around March so to see her continue to excel isn't surprising, although to be honest, seeing her win wasn't quite the plan going into the meet," stated Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Jesse Baumann. "Our plan going in was for her to mark Olivia Gerstenbacher and Juniata's top pair in the race and we figured that'd put her around 5th, but the way the race played out she obviously did much better. She took things out fairly conservatively and was in roughly the top 15 early on in the race but steadily moved up. Around the 2.5 mile mark, she had broken through and was within roughly 30 meters of Gerstenbacher and Kernan. We could tell she looked the smoothest of the three and by three miles she was right on their heels and then clearly closed well. She admitted afterwards that she may have held a little back in an effort to be conservative for the team effort, so if she can pour a little more in when we're at DeSales for Regionals, we think she can be one of the approximately 15 runners in contention for the seven NCAA spots.
"Natalie deserves a ton of credit," Baumann continued. "She worked her tail off all summer long and transformed herself from someone who wasn't even in contention for All-Conference honors 12 months ago to finishing first this weekend. We've said this to numerous athletes and recruits, we're a "blue collar" program. We don't have any magic secrets, we succeed through athletes who are willing to go out and grind 48 weeks each year. That's exactly what Natalie is. No nonsense, no complaints, just a quiet devoted runner who shows up each day to put in the work. Her win was entirely due to her dedication and mental toughness. We couldn't be more excited about what's on the horizon for her these next three years, she has the potential to be one of the next greats in our program's storied history of women's distance runners."
Danoski finished tenth in the race with a time of 23:47.87 while Stabilito came in 12th in 23:54.07 as both earned All-Conference honors for the first time in their careers. Danoski has improved from 20th as a freshman to 17th last year and an All-Conference runner this fall.
"On Natalie's overnight her dad mentioned to our staff that she was an extremely hard worker who was second to no-one with respect to mental toughness," commented Baumann. "Obviously you hear that a lot, but it became abundantly clear in her first 5k we raced in August. This was Natalie's first season of cross country after playing golf in the fall in high school so throughout the recruiting process and even the season we discussed how we'd be very conservative in our approach to cross country and really didn't have high expectations as she adapted, but again, that first race at DeSales when she went to the lead from the start showed us we had someone with a unique mental toughness.
"Our plan going into the race was to try to match Elizabethtown's #5 runner but as has become her M.O. Natalie surged out a bit too quickly," Baumann said. "We spoke after the race about how we feared she had jeopardized her race with her early race aggression, but again, she showed her grit. She eventually settled into the top 15, and as the race progressed we realized she had a shot not only at finishing on the All-Conference team, but also contesting for the Freshman of the Year award. We tried indicating to her where she needed to be mid-race as the field was evolving and she responded like a seasoned vet. Heading into the last 400 of the race our team had a legitimate chance at winning the meet thanks in large part to Natalie stepping up. She's got a bright future in both cross country and the middle distances and we're ecstatic she's a part of our program."
Jaindl finished second of 83 competitors in the men's race with a time of 26:04.48, just 1.67 seconds out of first place on the 8,000-meter course as he earned All-Conference honors for the third time in his career after being on the First Team last fall and the Second Team in 2016 as a freshman. Kemery placed fifth on Saturday in a time of 26:31.55 as he earned All-Conference First Team honors for the second time after being on the Second Team in 2017 and the First Team in 2016 when Moravian hosted the meet. DeRefalo was the top freshman in the men's race, placing 14th in a time of 27:06.54 to garner a spot on the All-Conference Second Team in addition to Rookie of the Year.
"We knew from the recruiting process that Dominic was a tough athlete," noted Baumann. "He came from a wrestling mindset and background which can be a great asset for an athlete in any sport. He has that tough grit you often see translating over from that sport and he's consistently displayed that as a runner both in high school and in his time here thus far. We knew Dom would be a key part of our program this year and going into the future, and he's steadily improved throughout the year as he's adapted to the 8k distance.
"We talked going into the race about aiming for the top 14 and we were aware of a secondary goal of contending for the Freshman of the Year honors," continued Baumann. "As is his style, Dominic went out a little conservatively through the first 3k and then steadily worked his way up into the top 14 to secure All-Conference honors for us and step up as our #3 runner. He's reliable, has a great work ethic, and apparently comes from a great high school tree. We were talking with his family before the men's race about how there was a chance for Boyertown to sweep the Freshmen of the Year honors, and as it turned out, that's exactly what happened. Dom is going to be a huge contributor for our team going forward, he's tough, has a team-first attitude, he doesn't take any short cuts, and will be one of the leaders of our program for the next 3.5 years both by the example he leads and his athletic gifts. We're very blessed to have him as a Hound."
Moravian is off this week before returning to action at the 2018 NCAA Division III Mideast Regional being hosted by DeSales University on Saturday, November 10.