Cross Country Kicks Off 2016 in Cullowhee
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Cougars will once again be off to the races this weekend at the WCU Invitational, when the College of Charleston cross country program will kick off the 2016 season.
The men and women find themselves in entirely different situations heading into the year. The women carry a high degree of continuity with them from 2015, returning eight of their nine top runners from last season. The men on the other hand lost three of their top six runners from the year before, and of their current ten-man roster, five are freshmen.
For the men, Crew Kosiorek comes back for his junior season hoping to pick up where he left off as the Cougars' undisputed leader. Kosiorek finished first among his teammates in all but one of his races, establishing career-highs in the 8K (25:39.5) and 10K (33:20.1). Consistency king Josh Tierney comes back for his senior season, and sophomore Grant Gauthier also come back for the Cougars, and both will look to do a healthy amount of scoring for CofC in races to come.
As for the remaining two scoring spots, those will be up for grabs. Returners like Andrew Tyler and Logan Veatch will fight for them, as will the new crop of freshmen. Jack and Sam Beattie out of Hilton Head will look to insert themselves into the Top 5, as will Hayden DiBona of Mt. Pleasant and Jarred Silverman of Leesburg, Va.
"We needed to add depth on the men’s side, so I think this class in the long run will be a huge plus for us," head coach Seago said. “With freshman, you’re bound to have some inconsistency at first, especially because that jump from a 5K in high school to the 8K in college is so significant. We have some newcomers who’ve logged some pretty high-mileage in high school, so I think they’re in a good spot to make that adaptation. We’ve got some great positivity on the team, and I think everybody compliments each other well.”
On the women's side, they will return seven runners who managed scoring performances last season. After strong performances in cross country in 2015 as well as track & field in 2016, reigning All-CAA selection Cara Butcher returns for her senior season as the presumptive favorite to lead the Cougars. Butcher finished first among her teammates five times last year, and clocked Top 5 overall finishes in her first five races of the year. Butcher obliterated her sophomore PRs, running a 17:47.6 5K and a 21:08.4 6K at the conference championships, and will look to do more of the same in 2016.
Behind Butcher, senior Carlee Cassidy and Tori Churchill will likely see consistent finishes among the Top 3 for the College. Of the two, Churchill had the higher highs with a first place finish at the CofC Invitational, while Cassidy was the slightly more consistent of the two, logging 2nd or 3rd place finishes among her teammates.
After those three, things open up quite a bit. Junior Hannah Lopez was probably No. 4 on the Cougars last season, but after a lower body injury in the winter, it will be interesting to see how her recovery has gone. Sophomore Lizzie Parrish had a strong start to her freshman campaign before fading a bit, while conversely, Ellen Feringa and Marissa Small-Towns overcame slow starts to really pick up steam toward the finish. All four have demonstrated scoring potential for the College, and their collective offseason improvements could be the difference in determining if the Cougars can out-perform 2015's fourth place finish at the CAA Championships.
"I think our women are more fit coming in this year than last year," Seago said. “I think we have a great, focused group, and we just need to keep working hard this season. We just need to stay healthy and we should be in good shape.”
This season, the Delaware Blue Hens drew hosting duties for the CAA race, a venue Coach Seago has never before visited. As such, 2016 will present a new challenge when the end of the season rolls around.
"Hearing what others have said about this course, we can probably expect some hills," Seago said. “Preparing for that element here in the Lowcountry is always a challenge. I think more than anything, we have to be prepared mentally for that. When we get to that point in the season, we’ll have to have confidence in our training and preparation, and trust that we’ve put in the work to get the results we’re looking for.”
The Cougars kick things off with some light lifting this weekend, as the men and women will both compete in some relatively short races up at Western Carolina to get their feet under them for the rest of the season. The men will run a 5K rather than their typical 8K race, while the women will compete in a miniature two mile jaunt. They’ll square off against the likes of Gardner-Webb, NC A&T, UNC Asheville and Western Carolina, among others.
The women's race is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m., followed by the men shortly thereafter.