The men’s cross country team is not currently in the top 25 teams in the nation for Division II, according to the USA Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. However, qualifying for the national cross country meet in Louisville, Kentucky later this year is not out of reach for coach Jack Hazen and his squad.
After failing to make it to the national meet last year, redemption is on the horizon for these runners.
So far this season, the team has run at the Tommy Evans Invitational hosted by the University of Akron and the All-Ohio Championships hosted by Cedarville University. They came away with a big win at Akron against four Division I programs and took third at the All-Ohio Championships.
“Last year we should have been a shoe in to go to nationals, so, it’s looking even better this year to achieve that goal,” said junior runner Ryan Roush.
Roush also mentioned that Ashland University and Grand Valley State University had given them trouble last year and are expected to do the same this year.
According to the coaches association, Grand Valley State is currently second in the nation and Ashland is not far behind.
The men’s team will also see these schools at the regional and national levels. However, the team is not letting this deter its spirits.
Five of the top seven runners on the team are returners this year, and there are as a lot of developing runners that have a great chance to snag the last two positions to fill the top seven that run in each meet. Coach Hazen had this to say about his team:
“We have a very strong up-front team, so if all those guys in the top six or seven stay healthy, we should definitely do well at the conference, place in the top four at regionals, and get to nationals,” Hazen said. “Providing that everyone is healthy and we continue to progress as we have been, I think we can place pretty high at nationals.”
“We’re looking like one of the better teams we’ve had in the past four or five years,” said Nick Fresenko, former NCCAA All-American for the team.
Fresenko said there is a lot of talent on this team, and a major factor on whether or not they place well at the regional meet and make it to nationals is keeping their health.
Junior runner Brandon Simmons is battling an ankle sprain which is keeping him from competing this cross country season. Although he is injured, he is doing everything he can to help the team until he is ready to compete again, which will most likely be in the spring.
Other than this setback, the runners are looking strong and ready for the rest of their season on the road to nationals.
Matthew Hendrix is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.