Runners look for success despite loss of seniors

Joe Harrington

With a large group of seniors, the men’s cross county team had big expectations coming into last season, but was only able to muster a third place finish in the Mid American Conference Championships, while the women’s team finished eighth. Now, with those seniors gone, Kent State’s cross country team hopes to build on last season’s performance.

Although the men’s team felt a MAC Championship was a reasonable goal, they still came up short. They may not have won a championship, but they did place some impressive individual performances.

“I was pretty happy about last season, there was a little disappointment at the end, but we improved a lot,” said head coach Mark Croghan.

Fifth-year senior Ryan Spellman looks to improve on a solid 2006 season when he was named to the all-MAC second team. Incoming freshmen Hosea Kipkemboi – from Kenya – and Scott Hilditch look to make an immediate impact. Croghan also expects senior Ray Armstrong, who had a successful track and field season, to be a top-seven runner this season.

The women’s team will be a very young group of runners with a total of eight freshman and sophomore runners. Croghan has high expectations for his two freshman recruits, Allison Krupko and Kasandra Meholick. Croghan believes these two recruits could help the women’s team move up in the final MAC standings at the end of the year.

Running in packs and closing the 15-to-30 second gaps are Croghan’s main goals this season.

“How well we compete as a group is a big key to how well we do,” he said.

But it won’t be easy for the cross country team to improve on last season’s results as All-MAC runners Ben Weitmarschen and Stephanie Blackstone – both finished in the top ten of the MAC Championships – have graduated along with a bulk of ÿexperienced runners.

Croghan, entering his second full season with the program, said graduation took a toll on the team, but the young runners and new recruits look promising. He should be able to see their talent, being a former three-time Olympian and five-time national champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Contact sports reporter Joe Harrington at [email protected].