While everyone was at home starting the packing process for college, the Elizabethtown College men’s and women’s cross-country teams were moving in and starting their first practices. This year marks the first time cross-country participated alongside the other fall sports teams in preparation for their upcoming season.
With the added practice time the cross-country team once again looks to have another championship-filled season. After the women’s 22nd place finish at nationals and the men’s narrow miss of the national berth, with a fifth place finish at regionals, both teams look to improve on an already stellar cross-country history. With the loss of only one senior, Kathryn Howser, the five-time defending Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Women’s Champs received a preseason ranking from the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) of second in Division III’s Mideast Region and 20th in the nation.
Despite the fact that the men’s team lost seven seniors centering on the three-time All-American, Eric Reichert, they look to continue the atmosphere of excellence. The three returning seniors plan to lead their team to a fourth consecutive MAC championship. The senior 2011 All-MAC and All-Mideast Region selection Aaron Focht is striving for another impressive season. Last year’s third place finisher at MACs, junior Stephen Welsh, will be another key part of the team’s success. The Jays will definitely need help from the eight new members to the team, first years Sam Brooks, Ryan Conway, Sam Cooper, Justin Fortney, Adam Harriger, Tyler Russ, Matt Shenk and Zach Trama. The men’s team was ranked by the USTFCCCA as sixth in Division III’s Mideast Region, although since 2008, Etown has not been ranked lower than fifth in the region. The men took their last trip to nationals as a team in 2010, with an 18th place finish.
The Jays season opener, the Galen E. Piper Alumni Invitational, was held Saturday, Sept. 1, at Shippensburg University. The third place finisher and last year’s 41st place finisher at nationals, sophomore Traci Tempone said, “Cross-country, along with track and field, has a unique experience apart from all other sports. We are not just a team but also a family. The guys are always there to support us and we are there to support them at every practice and every race. We are not a team of 19, but a team of 37.” And the team of 37 is off to a good start with sophomore Eileen Cody finishing with a solid race in 11th place and sophomore Amelia Tearnan following her later on in 27th place. The women ended up fifth overall. The men finish fourth overall with the support of the 10th place finish from junior Stephen Welsh, 18th place finish from senior Aaron Focht and 21st place finish from Matt Rever.
The Jays season line up continues Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Misericordia Cougar Classic at 10:30 a.m. followed by the Dickinson Long-Short Invitational Sept. 29, at 11 a.m. and the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble Oct. 13, at 11 a.m. The Blue Jays will host their first meet and end their regular season with the Battle for the Buggy at Shank Park in Hummelstown on Saturday, Oct. 25. With this upcoming season, the Battle for the Buggy will enter into its ninth year.
Following their home meet, the Jays will compete in the MAC Championships (Oct. 27) and the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional (Nov. 10), hosted by Misericordia University and Dickinson College respectively. The Blue Jays look to return to Terre Haute, Indiana for the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships Saturday, Nov. 17. With a national bid, the women will compete in their third straight national meet, while with an individual representative the men’s team would qualify for their fourth trip in as many years.