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After failing to win the Sunshine State Conference Championship for the first time in fifteen years, the Florida Southern College Men’s Cross Country team will look to recapture the conference title in 2012.

The Mocs are the early-season favorite to do so after being ranked second in the Division II South Region poll by the United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association. Assistant Coach Ben Martucci looks forward to the challenge of being the team to beat.

“It’s definitely a lot of pressure. It puts a big target on our back, but we’re looking forward to it,” Martucci said. “We have (University of Florida and Florida State) coming up so going against the big boys will be good to help us see where we’re at.”

The Mocs did not show any signs of crumbling under the pressure as they won the Tampa Early Bird Classic. Martucci was pleasantly surprised with the result.

“It was a surprise. In the first meet there’s a lot of pressure, so it was kind of a surprise, a good surprise. In the first meet you have to see what everyone has and we performed well,” Martucci said.

Even with the strong start, Martucci is still determined to get the team back to conference championship form.

“I want nothing more than to get us back. It’s one of the top priorities. I need to get this team back to where we should be and where we have been,” Martucci said.

Martucci knows first-hand what it takes to win a conference title. He ran for the Mocs during FSC’s streak of 14-consecutive SSC Championships. His senior year, he was actually on the team with current runners Dave Tomchinsky and Chris Yanichko, which only strengthens their bond.

“I love it because they were freshman when I was a senior. So now I am not just a coach but a mentor because I know where they’re coming from,” Martucci said. “The fact that they can do what I was doing when I was here really makes it great to mentor them. And they spoil me, honestly. They’ve been great.”

Martucci and the Mocs will be back in action tonight for the Jim Ryun Invitational, here in Lakeland.


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