Brunnette set to compete against nation's best in NCAA Championship on Saturday
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Plymouth State University junior Sam Brunnette (Newport, Vt.) continued to rack up awards this season when he was named the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association New England Runner of the Year.
Brunnette, who won the NCAA Division III New England Region Men's Cross Country Championship last week, will compete for a National Championship among a field of the top 280 runners in the country on Saturday. The championships are hosted by Principia College, in Elsah, Ill., with race time set for 12:00 p.m.
Brunnette entered the season with multiple goals; set a new personal record, repeat as Little East Conference champion and qualify for Nationals. He's accomplished all three. He took care of the first two goals in one fell swoop, posting a personal best and school record time to defend his LEC individual title. He finished a full 30 seconds ahead of his 2016 championship pace and his time of 24:42.5 was the third fastest in LEC Championship history.
Last week he became the first LEC runner since 2001 to win the regional championship. The individual title automatically qualified him to compete at Nationals.
The latest goal is to achieve All-America status, an honor awarded to the top 40 finishers on Saturday, an opportunity head coach John Ostler also looks forward to.
"I'm eager to see the race course," said the fourth-year coach of the Panthers. "All the information we've gotten about it leads me to believe it will suit Sam well. It's primarily grass with rolling hills and rain in the forecast will make for muddy footing – perfect conditions for a strength runner like Sam."
Competing on the national stage is nothing new for Brunnette. The distance runner also represented Plymouth State at the NCAA Division III Men's Indoor Track & Field Championships last spring, where he placed 14th in the 3,000 meters in a time of 8:34.05.
"Making Nationals has been a goal for Sam ever since he narrowly missed qualifying last year," said Ostler. "He is primed and ready and is bringing a lot of confidence to the start line. He got the nationals experience from last year's indoor meet. Comfort with all the variables that nationals brings is invaluable."
As for reaching All-American status, Ostler recognized it will be difficult. But with the way Brunnette has run this season it's hardly impossible.
"Sam knows it'll be a taller order," Oster added, "but he's excited for the challenge."
Saturday's championship race will be broadcast live, for a fee, by FloTrack, a subsidiary of FloSports, in partnership with the NCAA and NCAA Digital. More information can be found at www.flotrack.org.
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