|UMBC Cross Country Preview|
When Head Coach Matt Gittermann first assembled his team for the first time to go to pre-season cross country camp, things were a little simpler. “We had twelve men and eight women that first year, so with injuries things could definitely become a bit thin by the end of the year if things went badly. But at least transportation and lodging was easier,” said Gittermann. This year Gittermann has substantial resources with eighteen men and fifteen women converging on campus on Thursday to start the cross country season. “Even last year, while the men were solid, we had seven women in camp. I remember telling the women in our first meeting, ‘no one get hurt’, and luckily we made it through the season unscathed.” And with a single senior on the entire roster (Todd Cowing), it appears the rebuilding project Gittermann started at that first cross country camp, has a solid foundation to build a Conference Championship upon.
Saturday 9/1 Richmond Alumni Open, Pole Green State Park
Saturday 9/15 Navy Invite, Naval Academy Golf Course
Friday 9/21 Towson Invite, Oregon Ridge Park
Saturday 9/29 George Mason Invite, Oatlands Plantation
Saturday 10/13 Blue and Gold Invite, White Clay Creek State Park
Saturday 10/27 America East Conference Championships, Univ. of New Hampshire
Saturday 11/12 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region Meet, Penn State Golf Course
Seniors: Todd Cowing (C)
Juniors: Brandan McGee, Jon Constantinides, Vinny DiSalvo (C), Tommy Eldridge, Jake Albino, Andrew Smith
Sophomore: James Beacham, Ben Bemis, Eric Schuler
Freshmen: Hassan Omar, Andrew Kereszetes, Pat Anske, Ben Pickett, Zach Hopkins, Nick Johnson, Austin Hayslett, Redatu Semeon
Juniors: Cody Mezebish (C), Kirsten McGovern (C)
Sophomores: Julie Gessler, Alyse Gibson, Mary Katherine Kulp, Sarah Daly
Freshmen: Angel Bucci, Angelina Oputa, Deryca Johnson, Holly Cook, Essence Fredericks, Margaret Glassman, Harmony Roche, Nicole Dawson, Lynne Deckel
“Two years ago, we had a great year, and even though we brought back almost everyone from that team, we underachieved last year. I think some of the returners felt that it was a given that they were going to get back to that same level, and life doesn’t work out that way,” revealed Coach Gittermann. “This year everyone seems to be on the same page, and with some of the best and deepest leadership I have had since I been here, I believe that this will be the group that sets the tone for the program from this point forward.”
The men’s cross country team returns eight runners who have competed at the America East Conference Championships, led by last year’s Co-Most Valuable Runners, senior Todd Cowing and junior Brandan McGee. Cowing is the lone senior on both the men’s and women’s rosters, and has competed at the Conference Championships in each of his first three seasons, making a big jump from years prior to last year. In addition to a strong performance at the Conference meet, he continued his junior campaign by setting some of the fastest track times in UMBC’s history, including the second fastest 10,000 meter run in the spring. McGee, took it to the next level in the spring, winning the Conference championship in the steeple (breaking the school record) and finishing fourth in the 5,000 meters. “With the progress they both made last year in the second half of the year, my expectation and their goal, is to break into the Conference top ten at this year’s meet,” said Gittermann.
“To make an improvement over last year, we are going to need a lot of the returners to step up to the plate,
and make an impact,” said Gittermann. Sophomore Eric Schuler posted the third fastest returning time in cross country last fall while junior Tommy Eldridge built upon a strong fall campaign to put up the fifth fastest 10,000 meters in school history during outdoor track. Mid-distance runner Jake Albino dropped minutes from his best 8,000 meter times from the year before and even half that improvement this year would make an impact at the Conference level. Juniors Andrew Smith and Vinny DiSalvo, who were both on the Conference team as freshmen, should rebound this year with a great improvement over the past two years. Finally sophomore James Beacham should make the big jump from year one to year two after representing the team last year in Albany.
The men’s team brings in eight freshmen to build up the depth of the team and fill some holes from the year before. “We have a couple kids on the roster who should be top five or top seven runners for us from the first meet and only progress from there,” said Gittermann. “Even though a couple of them are more mid-distance focused, all have advanced to the state cross country meet individually and performed well at those meets.” Freshmen year is usually a rough year for all male newcomers with the move up from 5,000 meter courses at the high school level to the 8,000 meter and 10,000 meter courses at the collegiate level.
Coach Gittermann breaks down their chances: “This year the Conference is wide open, and when it gets like this, it doesn’t usually matter how much talent you have, but how good of a race you have as team that determines your place. We definitively need to have our top two guys in the top ten or contending for it, otherwise you can not hope for better than fifth. After them, we need four or five of our guys to bridge that gap and get into the lower twenty five minutes range. In order to do that we need returners to step up and a couple freshmen to make an immediate impact.”
While the women’s team is much larger than previous years, there are only seven seasons of collegiate cross country experience on the roster. The top returner for the Retrievers is junior Cody Mezebish who was the second woman across the line after departed senior Keri Wilson. “Cody really exceeded our expectations as an 800 meter runner who showed the range to make an impact during cross country,” said Gittermann. “Since she has less cross country experience than our incoming freshmen, we can expect to still see large jumps in improvement.” Fellow junior Kirsten McGovern should make an big impact for the Retrievers as well after a stellar indoor and outdoor campaign. “Kirsten really stepped it up during the track season and with that momentum should make for around a two minute improvement from last year’s conference meet to this year’s conference meet.” McGovern set UMBC Top Ten All Time Performances in the indoor 3,000 meters and outdoor 10,000 meters, including an eighth place finish in the latter at the Conference meet despite falling.
The remaining returners are three sophomores who made contributions throughout last year. “Our three
sophomore women have shown similar abilities in cross country, and with another year of training under their belt, we should see a lot of improvement and more consistency from the group,” said Gittermann. Alyse Gibson was the third Retriever across the line at last year’s cross country meet. Julie Gessler was right behind her and recorded the eighth fastest 10,000 meters in school history during the outdoor season. Mary Katherine Kulp made a strong contribution during the indoor season, recording top ten all time performances in the 800 meter and 1,000 meter runs.
The bulk of the team is represented in the ten new additions to the cross country program. “Of those ten girls, about half are what you would refer to as traditional cross country runners, while the other half are closer to 800 meter runners. But with no real change in distance from high school, unlike the men, those 800 meter runners can still make a solid contribution,” said Gittermann. Overall there are nine freshmen in this group, while sophomore Sarah Daly, who is a top ten all time 800 meter performer, joins the cross country team.
Coach Gittermann on their chances: “We really have no standout number one runner, so the success of this team is based on getting a bunch of women across the line in a tight group. With another year of experience we can expect them all to improve greatly, and as the year progresses, we will be looking to see the gap between number one and number ten diminish. If we can get that gap down to under thirty seconds, that is how we are going to make a big jump.”
|Last Updated ( Friday, 24 October 2014 10:51 )|