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Kali Duffy / for Spectator

After a second-place team finish at the Ivy League Championships, men's cross country will hope to build on a strong Ancient Eight campaign at the NCAA Regional Championships in Buffalo this weekend.

Cross country will send its top runners to Buffalo, New York on Friday to compete in the NCAA Cross Country Northeast Regional Championships, as both men’s and women’s squads look to qualify for next weekend’s NCAA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Lions were most recently seen at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, when the women finished first behind senior Nell Crosby’s fourth-place individual finish and the men took second, with senior Ryan Thomas winning the individual title.

The women are currently ranked 24th in the nation according to the USTFCCCA rankings and second in the region, while the men are unranked nationally and ranked third in the region. The top two teams at Friday’s meet will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, something both teams hope they can accomplish.

The only team ranked ahead of the women’s squad in the Northeast regional rankings is Providence, the 10th-best team in the nation. Dartmouth—ranked third in the Northeast region—is also nationally ranked, coming in 30th place in the most recent rankings.

Crosby will likely be joined by senior Erin Melly, sophomore Fiona Danieu, junior Erin Gregoire, and sophomore Bianca Alonzo as the Lions chase down their first appearance at the NCAA Championships since 2005, the same year the team last won the Ivy Championships.

On the men’s side, the Lions’ fiercest competition for a place at next weekend’s Championships will come from No. 3 Syracuse and No. 22 Iona, the only other squads ranked ahead of them in the region.

In September, the Light Blue beat Iona at the Iona Meet of Champions when both the team and Thomas finished first overall. But more recently, when the Lions lined up against both Syracuse and Iona at the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational, they were easily outrun. Syracuse took third place overall, while Iona finished 17th and Columbia brought home 33rd.

Since then, Thomas, junior Brian Zabilski, sophomore Kenny Vasbinder, and junior Lucky Schreiner all had solid performances at the Ivy Championships, and each of them finished in the top 10.

The Lions will hope to use their strong finishes at the Ivy Championships to propel them to the NCAA Championships as a team for the first time since 2013.

The women’s 6k will begin at 11 a.m. in Buffalo on Friday, followed by the men’s 8k at 12 p.m.

ally.mcdonough@columbiaspectator.com | @CUSpecSports

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