TOWSON, Md. - The Towson women's cross country team is trotting off to New Germany State Park for what some might consider wilderness training but to coach Roger Erricker it's his version of a pre-season camp.
"We're in tents and we're cooking our own meals," Erricker explains, "but it's a great place to train with very few distractions."
The park's ski area, nestled in western Maryland's Savage River State Forest, actually offers an ideal training ground for a cross country runner.
"It's absolutely great," says Erricker, who is entering his 28th year as Towson's coach. "There are numerous cross country ski trails, all marked with very few rocks. It's a little more mountainous than our home course at Oregon Ridge Park but this is a good way to break the girls in by running these hills."
With so many new faces in the crowd Erricker's main objective for the week will be evaluating the newcomers.
"This group coming in is more of a question mark than any freshman class we've had in the past," the coach says. "Also, after losing so many to graduation from last year, we're anxious to see who among the returning girls is going to show a little leadership and put their stamp on the team."
Tobin showed gumption last spring when she answered the call as the Tigers' steeplechaser on the outdoor track squad. For someone who had never competed in the event before, she accepted the challenge and turned in good times. Her 11:21.92 at the Colonial Athletic Association championships places her third on the program's all-time list. Erricker is hoping her resurgence on the oval is going to carry over to her fall performances.
As a freshman Bucaro scored in five of the eight cross country meets with a top time of 18:30, the fourth fastest 5K time on the squad in 2011. She was also impressive on the track, especially indoors where she came within a second of breaking Maureen Shaneman's 25-year-old 1000 meter run record.
On paper, sophomore Elizabeth Tauber is the leader of the pack. As a freshman she was the third place finisher for the Tigers in six meets trailing departed Katie Ogden and Kaylin Gilmartin-Donohue. Tauber was second once and fourth once. She was the only 2011 newcomer to score in every race for Towson.
Senior Hannah McKenzie and graduate student Katlyn Dillow should be stepping up along with junior Liz Shaw, who has had to battle injury and illness in her first two years but is ready to unleash the talent that earned her very high marks in high school. Sophomore Ashley Simmons is on the rise too.