Cross Country Season Preview
You've got a freshman-laden roster, a new coach and your best runner just had knee surgery. Sounds like the makings of a rebuilding year for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs cross country team, doesn't it?
Well, yes and no.
"Of the 26 kids on our roster, we only have one that will complete her eligibility this season," said new Mountain Lions coach Mark Misch. "So I look at this as this team's not all about this season but it's also about what we'll be doing next year building with the kids we have."
That would be the 'yes' portion of the rebuilding question. The no comes when Misch is asked whether qualifying for nationals is a realistic goal for 2007.
"I think it's very realistic," said Misch. "In the North Central Region this year, we have five bids on both the men's and women's side.
"I've been around a lot of teams. We have enough that if we stay healthy and we do things right, we'll be in the mix."
That seems to be a bold statement for someone in Misch's position. Of the seven runners who took the Mountain Lion women's team to a seventh-place finish at nationals a year ago, two have graduated (Sarah Shepard and Ashley Birger), one transferred (Lisa Short), one is out for the season (Shannon Payne) and two are currently battling nagging injuries (Whitney Lund and Christy Severy). That leaves just one experienced sure thing, Jenna Dorsey-Spitz.
"We have a lot of young kids, a lot of freshmen," Misch said of the UCCS women. "On the women's side, it's OK because freshmen can come right in and do a pretty good job since there's not much difference between a 5K and 6K."
Those freshmen have been impressive in workouts so far. Vivian Reed, Paige Hall, Kaitlyn Frier and Alicia Del Pardo were among those Misch mentioned as having a good chance of contributing immediately.
Lund and Severy, if healthy, will also be a major factor. There's also a wild card.
"Tavia Hammond is in real good shape," said Misch of the junior who has competed sporadically during her first two seasons at UCCS. "She's really stepped it up a notch."
The men's team is, for now, much more defined. Last year's team was full of young runners learning the ropes. Now, those youngsters are veterans, giving the Mountain Lions a strong core including Dan Pinter, Gabe Small, Alex Tiernan and Carlos Ruibal. In addition, runners like Dustin Simeons and Joel Keinitz gained valuable competitive experience last year.
"We're fortunate to have a solid core group of guys returning," said Misch. "Then you throw in a freshman like Branson Bartlett, who we think is going to be a contributor right away.
"I think we're sitting really well. We've got a great group of kids, they're working really hard, they're committed and they've come in with great attitudes about the transition and doing things a little bit differently."
Part of that different way is to look long-term as well as short-term. With that in mind, Misch encouraged his best runner, Payne, to have the surgical procedure she's needed since the fall of 2006. It wouldn't have taken much to convince the tough-as-nails all-American to tough it out this season, but that's not Misch's way.
"You always want to do well when you put the singlet and the race number on," said Misch, "but the way we're training and also the decisions we're making are based around long-term success."
Part of that long-term is looking toward future seasons. The larger part is looking at the season at hand. With that in mind, UCCS will focus its training on having its athletes peek at the right time.
"We want to do well at New Mexico and Colorado College and Fort Hays State," said Misch, referring to UCCS' first three meets. "But at the end of the season we want to be able to look back and say 'yeah, we made it to the NCAA championships.'
"That's the overriding team goal."
|Additional News Stories|
|November 3, 2007||Cross Country: Women Take 12th at Regionals||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team finished 12th at the NCAA Division II North Central Regional meet on Saturday at the Don Baker Cross Country Course in Vermillion, South Dakota.|
|October 20, 2007||Cross Country: Women Take Fifth, Men Sixth at RMAC Chmpionships||Behind a 19th-place finish by Jenna Dorsey-Spitz, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women finished in fifth place Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships.|
|October 9, 2007||Cross Country: UCCS Alum Qualifies to Run at Olympic Trials||Megan Lund, former UCCS cross country and track athlete, ran her in her first marathon on Saturday and qualified for the Olympic Trials.|
|October 6, 2007||Cross Country: Women Take Fifth, Men Ninth at Tiger Invitational||Jenna Dorsey-Spitz fought off illness to take fourth among scoring runners and lead the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team to a fifth-place finish at the Tiger Invitational.|
|September 22, 2007||Women's XC: Dorsey-Spitz Leads UCCS at Colorado College Invite||Jenna Dorsey-Spitz took fourth place among college runners to lead the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team to a fifth-place finish at the Colorado College Invitational Saturday at Monument Valley Park.|