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Off to a strong start, No. 24 men's cross country hosting invitational on Saturday

Matt Morris (left) and Ben Tonelli (right) comprise two of Bates' strong senior class ready to host the Bates Cross Country Invitational this weekend. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- "I think the trademark of this team is going to be tremendous team depth," said 23rd-year head coach Al Fereshetian of the 2017 edition of the Bates men's cross country team. And if things align well for Fereshetian's Bobcats, ranked No. 26 in Division III in the preseason and now up to 24th, another strong season and possibly a team berth to the NCAA Championships could be in store.

Bates hosts Tufts, USM and WPI this Saturday for the Bates Invitational, starting at 11am.

Co-captains Zach Magin (West Hartford, Conn.) and Ben Tonelli (Seattle, Wash.) finished 1-2 in the junior/senior race at last week's Bates/Colby Class Races and form a classic pair of leaders for the Bobcats. They lead a strong senior class for the team, which also includes Stephen Rowe (Gambier, Ohio), Matt Morris (Rockville, Md.) and NCAA Championship track competitor Jack Kiely (Severna Park, Md.).

"We've got an outstanding senior class, and they are going to do a fantastic job of setting a foundation for our program," said Fereshetian.

Sophomore James Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.) is one key to the team's fortunes. The 2016 NESCAC Rookie of the Year led the Bobcats in every race last year, but is currently sidelined with an injury. A second outstanding young talent, first-year Eliot Chalfin-Smith (Gainesville, Fla.) proved his bona fides as Bates' second finisher in the annual alumni race on Sept. 2. Freshmen Tucker Barber (Wilton, Maine) and Tucker Pierce (Gray, Maine) were also among the top five runners in last weekend's first-year/sophomore rce, along with sophomores Justin Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Bryce O'Brien (Bristol, R.I.).

Junior Henry Colt (Whatley, Mass.), a Nordic ski team member, is a newcomer to the team but already in the mix to be a top-seven runner for the Bobcats.

Bates will return to Pineland Farms to host the NESCAC Championships on Oct. 28, and stay in Maine the following weekend for NCAA Regionals in Gorham, hoping to crack the top group of teams that will make the trip to NCAAs, scheduled for Nov. 18 in Elsah, Illinois.