Rensselaer student-athlete Grant O’Connor has been named the Liberty League Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Year, and the Engineers coaches, led by John Lynch, garnered Staff of the Year, the conference has announced.
A junior, O’Connor capped the 2017 season with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championship Meet, running the 8-K course in 24:19.3 to earn National All-America for the second straight year. Nationals were hosted by Principia College at the North Farm Facility in Elsah, Illinois.
The week before, at the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Atlantic Regional Championship Meet, O’Connor led the Engineers to a second-place finish and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship by running the 8-K course in a 4:53 pace for a total time of 24:14.5. He held the lead throughout and won by almost five seconds. The victory was his fourth straight, including setting the meet and course record at the Liberty League Championship with a time of 24:55.9 in late October.
In addition to earning Runner of the Year, O’Connor, an electrical engineering major, earned Liberty League Performer of the Week five times, Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year, and conference All-Academic honors.
Lynch and assistant coach Kailyn Balzano led a team that won five events, including the league championship, and a pair of runner-up finishes. The Engineers finished 14th in the nation after qualifying automatically for the NCAA Championship Meet with a second-place finish at the Atlantic Regional. Rensselaer had seven All-League runners, four who earned All-Region and 10 who garnered All-Academic.
This is the second straight year Rensselaer coaches have been honored by the conference. It is also the second consecutive Runner of the Year for Rensselaer—Benjamin Fazio won the award in 2016.