2017 NAC Men's Cross Country All-Conference: Brigante, Sands & Smith Take Top Honors

Castleton's Grandon Smith (Newtown, Ct.) was the first to cross the line at the 2017 North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Men's Cross Country Championship, which earned him NAC Runner of the Year. The senior, who claims his second-consecutive NAC medalist honor, finished the 2017 Championship in a time of 26:24.9. Second-place finisher, UMaine-Farmington freshman Jeremiah Sands (Falmouth, Maine), completed the 8k course in 26:44.7, which earned him NAC Rookie of the Year.

In a vote of the conference coaches, Maine Maritime's John Brigante (Woodbine, Md.) was honored as the Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year, Colby-Sawyer head coach Lyndsay Ostler was selected as the Coach of the Year and eleven men's cross country student-athletes were named to the Sportsmanship Team to headline the 2017 All-Conference announcement.

Smith has had another remarkable season with the Spartans. He claimed five first-place finishes, including medalist honors at the 2017 NAC Championship. The senior paced the field of 85 runners at the conference championship to the finish line with an impressive time of 26:24.9, 20 seconds faster than the nearest competitor. This was Smith' second win at the conference championship, as he placed first last season. He led Castleton to NAC runner-up honors as his teammates placed fourth, 14th, 31st and 33rd for 83 total points. Prior to the conference championship, he started out the 2017 season with two first-place finishes at the Southern Vermont Invitational (16:56) and the Castleton Invitational (48 runners). In a tough race against Division I, II, and III runners at the UMass-Dartmouth Invitational, Smith came away with his best 8K time of the year. He led Castleton with an impressive ninth-place finish out of 315 runners, clocking in at 25:41.82, less than 20 seconds away from the leader. The senior then added another two individual titles to his impressive collection, crossing the finish line first at the Vermont Colleges State Championships (26:42) and the Western New England University Invitational (25:52). Throughout his career, he claimed 10 NAC Runner of the Week honors and five Rookie of the Week accolades.


Sands, a four-time NAC Rookie of the Week honoree, finished as the runner-up at the 2017 NAC Championship to help the UMaine-Farmington men's cross country team to a third-place finish. He claimed second out of 85 runners crossing the line in 26:44.7. Prior to the conference championship, he recorded four top-nine finishes this season, including a first-place finish at the UMF Invitational with a time of 16:50. The rookie also tallied two runner-up honors at the Bowdoin Invitational (26:23) and the Runnin' Monks Invitational (29:12). Sands placed ninth at the Maine State Championship (26:21.8), while also finishing 38th at the highly competitive UMass Dartmouth Invitational (26:28). 

Brigante is being recognized for excelling academically and athletically throughout his undergraduate experience. The Marine Systems Engineering major, who is also pursuing a Naval Architecture and Mathematics minor, has taken advantage of all of his opportunities in the classroom and as a leader on the course. He is described as a kind, loyal, and honorable young man who has a standard of devotion to family and friends that is beyond his years. Brigante's honors and achievements are numerous, including being voted by the faculty as the number one student in his major at Maine Maritime Academy. He is a certified rescue diver, the Vice President of the Subsea Engineering Club, a welding and engineering teaching assistant, an academic tutor, as well as a library student supervisor. He is a member of the Maine Maritime Regiment of Midshipmen and has held simultaneously two leadership positions, as the Cadet First Assistant Engineer, a position that maintained plant operation equipment including boilers, evaporators, and diesel generators, and in the start up, maneuvering, and shut down of the vessel procedures for the T/S State of Maine. He also is the Regimental Executive Officer, who is the second in command for over 600 regimental students and is responsible for upholding standards and regulations of the Regiment of Midshipmen. The senior joined cross country late in his collegiate career, while highlighting his short career with a first-place team finish the 2017 Colby Invitational 6K. Most recently he finished eighth on the team at the State of Maine Championships with an 8K time of 34:10, just a second behind his Captain, who he helped pace for the last two miles.


Ostler, in her sixth-year, claims her second NAC Coach of the Year honor after leading her team to their second-consecutive conference title. The Chargers second NAC win was made possible as five Colby-Sawyer runners placed within the top 12 for a total of 37 points. The Chargers earned a first-place finish to start the season at the UMF Invitational. Prior to the conference championship, Colby-Sawyer took second out of 23 teams at the Emmanuel Saints Invitational. The Chargers also finished seventh out of 37 teams at the competitive James Earley Invitational with only 1:30 separating the team's first finisher and fifth finisher. Ostler has coached 12 first-team and seven second-team All-NAC honorees and one NAC Rookie of the Year.

The medalist and the next seven finishers at the NAC Championship are honored as All-Conference First Team runners, while the next seven are named to the All-Conference Second Team.

Joining Sands and Smith on the All-Conference First Team were Castleton freshman Gannon McKearin (Proctor, Vt.), Colby-Sawyer sophomores Peter Bakker (Barkhamsted, Conn.) and Ben Jones (Enfield, N.H.) and junior Bruin Smith (Cohoes, N.Y.), UMaine-Farmington senior Robbie Hollis (Auburn, Maine) and Thomas sophomore Jarrod Ottman (Merrimack, N.H.).

Second team honorees include Castleton sophomore Jared Wheeler (Coventry, R.I.), Colby-Sawyer freshman Kyle Hajj (Methuen, Mass.) and sophomore Justin Whittaker (Bridgewater Corners, Vt.), Husson freshman Zach Hartman (Kennebunk, Maine), Lyndon junior Benjamin Cornell (Burrilville, R.I.) and Maine Maritime freshman Aylen Wolf (Surry, Maine) and senior Zak Kinsman (Lebanon, N.H.).

The NAC Men's Cross Country Sportsmanship Team is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves through demonstrated acts of sportsmanship and ethical behavior. The honorees are individuals who have positively affected the sport culture and environment and whose behavior clearly demonstrates sportsmanship and integrity. The following eleven individuals have been selected to the 2017 Sportsmanship Team, Castleton's Smith, Colby-Sawyer's Smith, UMaine-Farmington's Hollis, Green Mountain senior Jacob Nelson (West Barnstable, Mass.), Husson sophomore Patrick Welch (Hampden, Maine), Johnson senior Jacob Greenia (Sheldon, Vt.), Lyndon sophomore Brian Corrigan (Andover, Mass.), Maine Maritime sophomore Keenan Martin (Dixfield, Maine), New England College senior Gary Kargakos (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine), UMaine-Presque Isle senior Saul Nunez (Mapleton, Maine) and Thomas junior Dillon Sullivan (New Gloucester, Maine).

2017 NAC Men's Cross Country All-Conference Teams

To view a PDF list of the All-Conference team click HERE.

Grandon Smith, Senior, Castleton
Jeremiah Sands, Freshman, UMaine-Farmington
Peter Bakker, Sophomore, Colby-Sawyer
Gannon McKearin, Freshman, Castleton
Jarrod Ottman, Sophomore, Thomas
Ben Jones, Sophomore, Colby-Sawyer
Bruin Smith, Junior, Colby-Sawyer
Robbie Hollis, Senior, UMaine-Farmington 

Kyle Hajj, Freshman, Colby-Sawyer
Zach Hartman, Freshman, Husson
Aylen Wolf, Freshman, Maine Maritime
Justin Whittaker, Sophomore, Colby-Sawyer
Benjamin Cornell, Junior, Lyndon
Jared Wheeler, Sophomore, Castleton
Zak Kinsman, Senior, Maine Maritime 

Runner of the Year
Grandon Smith, Senior, Castleton
Rookie of the Year
Jeremiah Sands, Freshman, UMaine-Farmington
Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year
John Brigante, Senior, Maine Maritime
Coach of the Year
Lyndsay Ostler, Sixth Season, Colby-Sawyer 

Sportsmanship Team
Brian Corrigan, Sophomore, Lyndon
Jacob Greenia, Senior, Johnson
Robbie Hollis, Senior, UMaine-Farmington
Gary Kargakos, Senior, New England College
Keenan Martin, Sophomore, Maine Maritime  
Jacob Nelson, Senior, Green Mountain 
Saul Nunez, Senior, UMaine-Presque Isle
Bruin Smith, Junior, Colby-Sawyer
Grandon Smith, Senior, Castleton
Dillon Sullivan, Junior, Thomas
Patrick Welch, Sophomore, Husson