Every year, typically right before our home opener (Saturday, September 1st), I write an honest preview of our upcoming cross country season…and let me tell you…this year I am extremely excited to write about our 2018 DBU XC Season!!!
Last year was historically the best season our men and women have had. We qualified both teams for the NCAA Championships where the men were 18th and the women were 22nd; the ladies also captured their 11th straight Heartland Conference Championship, while the men had their first-ever All-American in Andrew Curry.
But, like Mark Wetmore once said in Running with the Buffaloes, the 2018 squad hasn’t done anything yet. And you can’t get caught in the trap of thinking that success from 2017 guarantees success for 2018.
But, I am excited about these two teams.
Our women enter the 2018 season returning all five of their scorers from the 2017 NCAA Regional and NCAA National squads; we also bring in nine ladies who all have the talent and ability to make immediate contributions to our 2018 team. This year’s squad will be looking to capture their 12th straight Heartland Conference Championship, as well as make a return trip to the NCAA National Championships.
On paper, I would say that this is the most talented team that we’ve ever assembled. We return more NCAA Championship experience than we ever have and our recruiting class is the fastest we’ve ever brought in. But paper is thin…and it tears easily.
The challenge I’ve given these ladies is to not be the most talented team we’ve ever assembled, but to work to be the BEST team we’ve ever assembled. There’s a difference; a big difference.
This group of women have a lot of work ahead of them…and they are going to have to manage a longer season this year than last year, since we are in a Fall Festival year. The Conference, Regional, and National Championships are two weeks later this year than they were last year…that can be a good thing for us…if we manage our energy, efforts, and attitudes well.
Up front we have four of the best women in the country (maybe I’m biased) in Micaela Lamb, Leah Lewis, Hannah Moore, and Danielle Rimann. Lamb, Lewis, and Rimann all have All-Region honors, while Moore was the 2017 Heartland Conference Champion. We also return the 2017 Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year and 5th girl on our 2017 squad in Jenna Thorman.
But, we all know that it takes more than five.
So, who is next in line?
Luckily, for this year’s team there are a lot of options…and each lady in that next group will be very important for this team to be the BEST team we have ever fielded.
Rita Vogt (sophomore), Lisbeth Britt (freshman), Martha Brown (freshman), Denae Chapman (transfer), Rylee Cristan (freshman), Leslie Filorio (freshman), Marissa Insinna (freshman), and Analynne Klotz (freshman) have all been grouped up and working together. I feel like after every run so far this year I’ve told this group that they will be the ones dictating whether or not we win our 12th straight conference title and whether or not we make it back to the NCAA Championships…someone from this group will be the one that steps up and makes it happen for this team.
The men are in a similar position as the ladies. We have four of our scoring five back from the NCAA Championships and our top three guys back who all qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last spring. Andrew Curry, Trent Phelps, and Stetson Rayas all have tremendous resumes and Championship experience which will be needed for a squad that will rely heavily on guys who do not have that experience.
Ivan Hernandez (junior) and Matthew Torvik (junior) have run in big meets for the Patriots in the past with Hernandez being the 2016 Freshman of the Year in the Heartland Conference and Torvik racing at the NCAA Championships last year, but both will need to improve significantly on their past cross country performances in order to help this men’s team get back to the NCAA Championships. Matthew Hahn (junior) is another experienced Patriot with some big meet experience that could be a major contributor to an NCAA Championship run.
Rounding out the next group of men would be Ben Duong (sophomore), Caleb Jones (sophomore), Noah Metzger (sophomore), Yale Jay (freshman), Angel Luera (freshman), Niles Obar (freshman), Austin Shumake (freshman), and Aaron Svetlecic (freshman).
The sophomore class from this group has improved tremendously from their 2017 form and the freshman class has done a great job in managing the training and sticking with the pack so far. Just like with the women’s ‘next’ group…it will take someone from this group (or multiple people) stepping up big time for this team to be the team we believe we can be.
So, who do we believe that we can be in 2018?
I believe that both teams have the potential to make it back to the NCAA National Championships and to pick up another Conference Championship along the way.
For the women, we’ve never finished in the top-20 at the NCAA Championships and so that’s a goal that I have in mind to start the year. I do believe that if we can stay healthy throughout the season and keep our energy levels high and our attitudes right that they could fall any where in that 10-20 range at the NCAA Championships. But, that’s going to take our top five ladies from 2017 running better this year than last and some women in that ‘next’ group to step up and be ready to contribute!!!
With the guys, we’ve set some pretty high goals within the program. I really believe that if we are healthy, that we’ve got three of the best guys in the country and three guys who should be dreaming about racing for a National Championship (individually)…now, I’m not foolish and I know how hard and big that goal is…but what’s the hurt in training for and dreaming about it? And I know that if those guys can be who they are, then a top-10 team finish and challenging for a podium spot is not unrealistic. BUT, it’s going to take some guys in that next group stepping up…and stepping up big time!!!
If the first two weeks of practices are any indication, then it looks like we’ve got some people ready to contribute and ready to step up big time!!!
There’s a lot of work and time left in this season and I can’t wait to keep this train rolling!