With a new cross-country season on the horizon, a young men’s team resets the chase for conference championships while a refreshed women’s team revamps itself.
Head coach John Sauerhage said the men’s team faces the challenge of trying to balance a roster full of veterans and freshmen, but still believes they can compete for the Sun Belt Conference title.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a whole lot of trouble competing for a title,” Sauerhage said. “I just think we’re going to have to have a good day to win the meet.”
With Michael Guerrero, Brady Steele and Grayson Birka all graduated, junior Cole Klashinsky said the team needs at least two or three of the nine incoming freshmen to step up and fill the void to complete the seven-man team.
“We will need some of the freshmen to come through,” he said.
Senior Justin Domangue will become the team’s top runner, with Klashinsky and sophomores Jared Lautenslager and Connor Butterfield expected to return to the top seven, Klashinsky said. It will take leadership from the upperclassmen to improve the team.
Having won the conference title in cross-country and indoor track and field last season, the outdoor track and field team fell short of the conference title and missed out on its third triple crown.
Klashinsky said losing the outdoor title last season was brutal, but this year will be a building year to try to compete for all three again.
On the women’s side, three runners returned while six new recruits come in to try to reinvigorate the team. Sauerhage said he’s excited for this year’s team after last season fell flat, because he struck out in recruiting and ended up shorthanded.
An Achilles’ heel injury kept junior Madeline Rowe out of action for much of the season, which didn’t help the team’s fortune.
“If [Rowe] could train effectively, she could easily get in the top 10 [of conference],” Sauerhage said.
As one of just three returners, Rowe said she wants to help the team become cohesive to have an impact in the league. Strong recruits solidified the women’s team this year, she said.
The team has underperformed for the last few years, Rowe said, but she hopes with the new talent, it can compete for a top-three spot in the conference meet.
Sauerhage said he wants the women’s storyline to be known for how the team came out of nowhere and became competitive.
He said he hopes by next year the team can realistically compete for a conference title but also admitted they could surprise themselves this year.
“They’ll be competitive and they’ll be fired up and they’ll probably go into the conference meet thinking they have a chance to win,” he said. “That’s how much better we are than last year’s team.”
The men’s and women’s cross-country teams’ first meet is at the Baylor Bear Twilight Invitational at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 in Waco, Texas.