Sports

In search of top results, cross country women rely on depth, men on dynamic duo

Brimming with young talent, men’s and women’s cross country teams open seasons with unsettled rosters

By
Staff Writer
Friday, September 11, 2015

With the graduation of the team’s pacesetter, captain Will Sheeran ’16 will be called upon to lead the inexperienced but improved team during both practices and meets.

On the eve the first meets of the season for the men’s and women’s cross country teams, both squads will ask senior leaders to carry young rosters. They will send runners to New York meets and the Bryant Nassaney Invitational over the weekend in hopes of unlocking their rosters’ potential.

The 2014 season closed on an optimistic note for the youthful women’s team. Two underclassmen finishing in the top 15 punctuated the squad’s seventh-place finish at the Ivy Heptagonal Championship. Lucy Van Kleunen ’17 paced the pack with an 11th-place finish, while Natalie Schudrowitz ’18 took 15th as a rookie.

“We’re excited to have them back on the squad this year,” said co-captain Victoria O’Neil ’16.

The young studs will be just two on a long roster of potential contributors. The leadership comes from a talented senior class. Lily Harrington ’16 and co-captains O’Neil and Lydia Davenport ’16 will look to cap their accomplished Brown careers with strong campaigns.

“Our depth is definitely a strength. We have a lot of girls that could challenge any of our top spots,” O’Neil said.

The sophomore and junior classes had “amazing summer training” and will make it interesting to see who is leading the pack throughout the season, O’Neil said. The rookie class includes nine runners with stellar high school careers. The first-years have looked strong enough that they could contribute despite the depth of the roster, she said.

The young talent, senior leadership and depth could make Bruno a team to watch this season in the Ivy League.

After a last-place finish at the Ivy Heptagonal Championship in 2014, the men’s team will call upon captains Will Sheeran ’16 and Ned Willig ’16 to lead a group of young runners. Inexperience is the team’s toughest hurdle as it opens the 2015 campaign, said Tim Springfield, director of cross country.

“We are young and even the upperclassmen don’t have a lot of experience,” Springfield said.

To make matters worse, the team graduated its pacesetter and captain Jordan Mann ’15, the squad’s only top-20 finisher at Ivies last season. But Springfield expressed optimism that Sheeran can fill the position.

“The leader we have had in practice is Sheeran, and he has the most experience,” Springfield said.

Sheeran was Bruno’s second-place runner at the 2014 Ivy meet and frequently notched times just behind Mann’s. Willig is also an impact runner and a second-team All-Ivy performer on the track. If he can translate his track success to the cross-country course, Willig can complement Sheeran to form a one-two punch leading the Bears.

Though Springfield said it’s “too early to tell” who will complement the senior captains, he identified the large sophomore class as a pool of potential breakouts.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that group run. They can really step up this year,” he said.

Springfield said that the steep learning curve of men’s college cross-country makes it difficult for first-years to contribute at the varsity level. But he added that he would not be shocked if some rookies climbed the roster by the end of the season.

Given the youth and struggles in 2014, this season will be crucial for the maturation of large first-year and sophomore classes. Springfield said the key to this maturation lies in consistency during practice.

“It comes down to training,” he said. “The way to overcome the lack of experience is to be very thorough in practice.”

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