After extra offseason practice, new records, men’s cross country looks to promising 2011 season

Photo courtesy of Elon Athletics.

The training for college athletes never ends, and the men’s cross country team is no exception. The team practiced in a new way this past season by running collectively in the men’s track and field events.

The team competed in three meets in the offseason.

“Running as a team in the track and field events will help us,” sophomore Nick Schneider said. “We broke, I think, two or three records on the track and field side for the men this year.”

These records came from the past, when Elon had a men’s track and field team.

Senior Conor O’Brien posted the top Elon time in the 1,500-meter with a 4:05.33. This time is an Elon-best in men’s history. Junior Lucas Walters posted a time to Elon’s all-time performance list in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He earned fourth place in the meet with a time of 10:02.91.

In the 5,000-meter sophomore Ben Perron became eighth all-time in Elon history with a time of 15:25.12. Schneider became the ninth all-time with a 15:28.52.

Sophomore James Stevenson had the second-best time of the meet in the 10,000-meter with a 32:39.96.

“All of the achievements we made during track and field will help give us more confidence and speed this season,” Schneider said.

Last season, the men’s team finished sixth with 153 points at the Southern Conference championship. At the NCAA regional meet, the men’s team came in 24th with 633 points. The team had five runners in the top-50.

“We are all hoping to place higher in our conference this year, if not win it,” Schneider said. “We are a really big contender. We have a great freshman recruiting class coming in and also to finish higher up on the regional ranking and be ranked in the top 16 for the first time in school history.”

These expectiations come even after the team lost Justin Gianni and Matt Richardson, who graduated, in the offseason.

This was no small loss, with Richardson and Gianni finishing second and third for Elon, respectively, for Elon in the SoCon championships. Their times of 25:52.57 and 25:59.75 were good enough for 24th and 27th place in the conference meet, respectively.

But even with the loss of those seniors, Schneider still points at the newest players as the key to a successful season.

“Our strength is a great recruiting class and we are a really young team but we are still really strong,” Schneider said. “We lost (two) seniors but we brought in three freshmen that are really good, and we also have more than half of our returning varsity starters.”

In order to improve on the previous season, head coach Christine Engel said the key is to close the gap between the number one and number five runners.

“The biggest thing that the team needs to work on is having more people out front,” Engel said. “We need to have more people take leadership and set a standard for the rest of the team.”

The team needs to improve on finishing through the season and not falling off toward the end, Schneider said. He cited a need to stick through the meet as a team and show more leadership as two ways for the team to keep their speed, confidence and success throughout the whole season.

Last season’s best finish was at the Elon Invitational Sept. 18, when both the men’s and women’s team came in second. This season’s Elon Invitational will occur Sept. 17.

The Elon men’s program was selected to finish sixth with 56 points in this year’s SoCon championship in the 2011 Cross Country Preseason Polls released Aug. 24.

Story can be found here.

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