AUM Cross Country gets ready for second season | Schools
With less than a week to go before the beginning of the second season in the Auburn University at Montgomery cross country program’s history, Head Coach Michael Gross is hoping for a continuation of the gradual improvement throughout 2011.
The Warhawks will have several newcomers this fall, with six incoming freshmen on the men’s side and two new runners on the women’s team.
For the men, Adam Russell and Ryan Schwarzman are the only returners from last year’s roster. As a freshman, Russell was the Warhawks top runner in all six meets, while Schwarzman finished second or third in every race of his junior season.
They will be joined this year by Josh Jenkins, Garrett Carr, Andrew Russell, Aaron West, Shaw Cornelius and Zachary Sollie. With such a young squad, Gross wants to manage expectations, but he believes there is a lot of potential overall.
“I know I’ve got some guys that have come in and have that drive,” Gross said. “They have that desire to lower their times and get better. I’m not planning to put any pressure on them as freshmen. I simply want them to go out and learn the college game so to speak.”
The women’s team has a bit more experience, with four members returning from 2011. Senior Katherine Toy and junior Savannah Brown, who were the second and third fastest runners for the Warhawks last year, are among the returners.
They are joined by fellow 2011 teammates Jordan Holley and Katie Cornelius, as well as newcomers Raquel Anecito and Amanda Lee. Gross hopes that the team's overall depth will be a strength this fall.
"The great thing about the women’s side is that you've got teams that are really strong one-deep, maybe two, but most of the teams in the conference are not deep past that," Gross said. "If the girls have done the necessary work over the summer, I think they could do well as a group."
Both teams will run in nine meets this year, a three-race increase from the previous season. Every runner competes in each meet, with the five fastest times counting towards the overall team score.
Each team will build up to the Southern States Athletic Conference Championships on Nov. 3 with an initial goal of improving on their finishes in the inaugural cross country season at AUM.
The top two teams from the SSAC finals, along with the next seven fastest times, qualify for the National Championships, held this year on Nov. 17 in Vancouver, Wash. While it would take continuing improvement throughout the season, Gross believes runners from both teams have the potential to qualify for nationals.
"For the guys, it's going to take somebody coming in and being able to run five miles at a five and a half minute pace," Gross said. "And I've got a couple of them that could possibly do that. That’s the beauty of having two and a half months to get ready for this and to work on those things. But I think it’s possible for at least one person."
The last women to qualify for nationals from the SSAC last year ran a time of 20:15. Gross mentioned Toy and Brown as two returners who have been working hard in the offseason to potentially run sub-21 times this fall.
"Overall, even though I only have six girls again, I think most of them are going to come back better than last year as far as conditioning," Gross said. "And hopefully by the end of the year we’re going to see some payoff on that."
The cross country season begins this Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Lee Invitational. The meet, hosted by Lee University, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Source: AUM Sports Information Director