WINONA LAKE – After four weeks of practice, the Grace College men’s and women’s cross country teams are ready to tackle their first race of 2013 this Saturday.
The Lancers, who open their season at the Goshen Hokum Karem, have long-range vision for this season and hope to climax at the season-ending Crossroads League championship race.
The league meet is hosted by Grace on Nov. 9, giving the Lancers a distinct advantage and a core motivation to finish strong in the race, according to Grace head coach Jeff Raymond.
“We’ve always aimed toward running our best at the conference championships, and we’ve been able to do that the last few years. Since we’re hosting the championship meet this year, it will give us extra incentive to be at our best,” Raymond said. “The Crossroads League continues to improve, but I think both our men’s and women’s teams have a chance to be better than last year.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams are deeper than they’ve been in years, according to Raymond. With key returners in place and an influx of talented youth, the Lancers are optimistic for improvement in 2013.
One of the primary strengths on the team centers on a larger roster sizes for the men and women. Raymond believes that factor alone will pay dividends in practice competition and in race results.
“For both the men’s and women’s teams, I think our biggest improvement is our depth. In the past we’ve had big gaps among our top seven runners,” Raymond said. “This year I can see some good packs to challenge and push each other throughout each race. I think the gap between our top runners will be much smaller than it has been in recent years.”
The men’s team will be led by senior Jonathan Rex for leadership. Juniors Tim Trapp, Jamin Parker, Richie Cornett and Donovan Graham bring two years of race experience to the lineup. Several newcomers on the men’s side figure to be major contributors. Freshmen Hunter Reed and Brandon Smith have impressed in early-season workouts and several others can contribute immediately.
The Lady Lancers could have a freshman as their top runner in Katelyn McCullough. She will be joined by top returner Jenna McClellan and senior Marena Lodzinski. Several members of Grace’s sophomore class will be counted on for leadership as well. Freshman Sarah Hoff has potential to finish among the team’s top five runners, according to Raymond.
“As every team says at this time of the year, we still have a lot of work to do,” Raymond continued. “We have two months to get ready for the Crossroads League meet, and hopefully we’ll be ready to peak at that time.”