The GW men’s and women’s cross country teams return to competition this season with high expectations and a great deal of young talent.
Both squads experienced a fair amount of turnover from last year, as three seniors from each team graduated. But filling that void is a group of freshmen who have already clocked competitive times in their first three meets.
“We picked up three standout runners to make up for what we lost,” senior men’s captain Dave Azari said. “The attitude on the team is very competitive.”
The three rookies on the men’s side are Ryan Shaver (season personal best: 26:54.78), Daniel Morgan (27:16.98) and Ian Hajek (28:11.87). Bridget Skeuse (19:13.50) and Taylor Leavitt (21:32.88) make up a talented women’s freshman pair.
Both Skeuse and Shaver were named Atlantic 10 Rookies of the Week after the season’s opening meet at Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Azari said the men’s team’s overall goal for the season is to place in the top three at the A-10 Championships. The women’s team captain, senior Emily Jadwin, agreed that placing high at the A-10s is the underlying aim for the team this season.
“We were not at all happy with our place at the all-conference meet last season,” Jadwin said. “It was so close, and we could have done better than 10th overall.”
The training schedule for both the men and women will progress steadily over the season as the runners gradually prepare to compete in the season-ending A-10 Championships Nov. 1 in Philadelphia.
“We will be working a lot on strength work, like hill work-outs, and putting in a lot of mileage in the beginning of the season to build a solid base,” head coach Deb Cane said. “Then, as competition progresses, we will be doing more fast work and really concentrating on racing competitively in preparation for the A-10 Tournament.”
Cane said Azari, senior Darrell Andruski and “a host of newcomers” are among the runners who will contribute heavily to the men’s team’s success in upcoming competitions. On the women’s side, she said Jadwin and Skeuse will be key runners, while veterans like junior Trina Bolton have made noticeable improvements, who finished in the top six overall in both of the last two meets.
So far, both the men and women are off to a strong start in the 2003-04 campaigns. The men placed second and fourth at their first two meets, while the women placed fourth and second, respectively. Each team also finished in second place at last weekend’s James Madison Invitational, with Skeuse and Azari both finishing in second place individually.
Azari said his strong start is a result of extra preparation.
“I ran a lot over the summer,” he said. “Because it’s really what you do in the pre-season that makes the fall season.”
Cane agreed, adding that “staying healthy and building a good physical base are the most important things these athletes can do to improve their racing results. The first meet was good. The freshmen needed to adjust to a race at a collegiate level, but everybody seemed to improve by about a minute in the second meet.”
The Colonials will look to continue that improvement and possibly win an Invitational this fall – a feat the men did not accomplish last year, while the women did it once. Both teams are currently preparing to host the GW Invitational Saturday at Bull Run Creek Park in Centreville, Va.