The Central Connecticut men's cross country team has won six straight Northeast Conference championships and the squad was chosen as the unanimous favorite to win the 2015 title in the Preseason Coaches Poll released on Thursday. The Blue Devils received seven first-place votes in the poll.
Saint Francis U claimed the other first place vote, as coaches are not permitted to vote for their own team, and placed second in the poll. Bryant was third and followed by Mount St. Mary's, Wagner, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn and Fairleigh Dickinson to round out the rankings.
Central is one of just six NEC sports programs to win six straight conference championships, and the only men's cross country program to do so. The string of six straight titles trails only Quinnipiac women's cross country (eight straight, 2005-12) and Mount St. Mary's women's tennis (seven straight, 1989-95).
Head coach Eric Blake, a four-time NEC Coach of the Year, will be guiding an experienced group of runners in pursuit of the seventh straight conference title. The Blue Devils matched a league record at the 2014 championship with a team score of 15 after placing the top five finishers in the competition.
Leading the Blue Devils will be three returning All-Conference runners in senior Matt Walker, junior Ryan Hertzog and sophomore Colin Sauter. All three earned top-five finishes at last fall's NEC Championships. Walker placed second (25:36), while Hertzog (25:52) and Sauter (25:57) placed fourth and fifth, respectively. Sauter paced all freshmen runners in the field and was named the 2014 NEC Rookie of the Year. The trio figure to be in the running to extend CCSU's string of consecutive NEC individual champions to six straight years.
The Blue Devils will open the season on September 5 at Stony Brook. The squad will also run at home meets for the Ted Owen Invitational on September 26 and the CCSU Mini Meet on October 23. The Northeast Conference Championships will take place on October 31 in Smithfield, RI, hosted by Bryant University.