Cross country riding upward trend into 2017

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SVSU’s cross-country teams are preparing for the upcoming 2017 season with momentum from last fall.

Both teams will be looking to improve from the previous year, a trend brought on since head coach Rod Cowan took the reins in 2009. Both men and women had strong finishes in the 2016 GLIAC Championships.

The men’s team finished second in the championships, right behind rival Grand Valley State University. This was their highest finish in recent years and the best finish since Cowan was hired in 2009. Since then, there has been significant improvement on the men’s side. In 2014, the men finished eighth in the GLIAC Championships, third in 2015, and then last year’s second place finish. The men are shooting to dethrone GVSU this year, as they have finished on top of the GLIAC the previous seven seasons while staying relevant on a national scale.

“We want to see if we can remain at least in the top 25 for the country,” Cowan said.

The Cardinals return many key runners such as senior Clyde Anderson, junior Parker Eisengruber, and first-team all-conference senior Tom Goforth. Goforth, however, may redshirt this season for recovery purposes.

Cowan is also confident in this year’s freshmen class. Though lacking depth, the new recruits are bringing some strong skills and experience to the squad.

“We went out and got some really good kids; the quality is certainly there,” Cowan said.

The ladies are looking to improve on a fifth-place GLIAC finish in 2016, only one point from a tie for fourth place with Ferris State University.

“I’m expecting the women to improve; to see a top-five finish would be something we’re shooting for,” Cowan said.

They, too, have been on an upward trend under Cowan. The women finished seventh in the GLIAC during the 2013 campaign and have since bounced between fifth and sixth place in the championships. Cowan hopes some of the ladies can bring confidence into this season to push them over the hump.

“It’s really about the upperclassmen taking charge and setting a culture of high expectation,” Cowan said.

The 2016 fifth-place finish was their highest since 2011 and 2012, when they took third and fifth in the championships.

Although losing all-conference runner Taylor Stepanski last year due to graduation, the ladies have leadership returning in second-team all-conference runner, senior Allison Dorr.

“I think the team is looking good so far,” said Dorr. “The freshmen are performing well so far. They are blending well with the team culture.”

Also returning are Alicia Tomlin and junior Dominique Adams.

The Cardinals begin their season at Central Michigan, where they are competing in the Jeff Drenth Memorial Meet on Friday, Sept. 1.