By GLEN BORTOLUS – CENTO WRITER
The Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams are off to a terrific start this year.
The Men’s Team, having won two of their three meets so far this season, is poised to win their first regional title since 2008. With a third place finish at the Rhodes Invitational this past weekend, the Colonels are undefeated among non-Division I competition.
The Women’s Team is also off to a hot start, with a win at the Centre Invitational, a second place showing at the Sewanee Invitational, and fourth place at last weekend’s Rhodes Invitational. The Lady Colonels have only lost to one non-Division I team this season.
“The team this year is much more determined. I think this comes from an extra year of maturity and a shared belief that we can be among the best, if not the best, Men’s team to ever run with “Centre” across our chests,” Men’s senior captain Michael Fryar said.
Fryar cited the early season races as a source of the team’s confidence, but also acknowledged that there are many challenges left to face before the team reaches the post-season.
Senior captain Megan Radenhausen has noticed the change in the team as well.
“I think everyone has worked very hard this year and put in a very solid summer of training. Despite fighting injuries all last spring, most people are healthier, having put the time and energy into rehabbing,” Radenhausen said.
Both teams have introduced a total of seven first-year runners this season, who have been “an awesome addition to the team,” junior captain Cristin Palmer said.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better group. They are very outgoing and friendly, and they’ve really embraced the training,” Palmer said.
The first-year runners haven’t been the only newcomers to the team. Coach Edwin Hagans was welcomed to the Centre Cross Country staff this year, and has been a big part of both the Men’s and Women’s success this season.
“Coach Hagans has been a phenomenal addition to the staff. He has come in and done a good job of sharing his knowledge with us, and he and Coach Owens make a great team,” senior captain Brent Joplin said.
“Coach Hagans is great – he’s very talented and good at what he does. How many teams can say that one of their coaches is a Master’s Champion and record holder?” Palmer said.
Joplin also took the time to commend his teammates on their improvement since the past season.
“The team has taken on a more professional attitude as athletes have matured – both physically and mentally – as runners. Every single runner has worked hard to the point where we don’t just have depth, we have true quality depth,” Joplin said.
Senior team captain and former All-American, John Keiffer, has some big goals this season.
“I’d like to return to All-American status and give myself the best chance at competing for the top of the podium. I’d like to finish knowing that senior year I did everything in my power to win,” Kieffer said.
Having won the regional meet as an individual for the past two years, Kieffer certainly has the capability of winning a national championship this year.
The captains all hold the goal of bringing their teams to Nationals and finishing in the top-25 in the nation.
The Centre captains seem to all be on the same page. Both teams continue to tally the wins and awards as the season nears closing.
In fact, Kieffer from the Men’s team and juniors Palmer, Hannah Ellis, and Ashley El Rady from the Women’s team have all received SAA Runner of the Week recognition during the 2013 season.
The teams look to add to their successful season; the next match will be at Wilmington College.