ANDERSON, S.C. – With a wealth of talent on the rosters and looking to gain valuable experience, the Anderson University men’s and women’s cross country teams are set to open the 2014 campaign.
Ninth-year head coach Randy Greer has high praise for his young, but talented corps, “I am looking forward to the class we brought in,” he said. “We have a lot of young [runners] who are very talented and I think we can really make a splash at the conference and hopefully at the regional and national level this year. Our sophomore class did very well at conference last year. We have talent but we are a young team. Experience is something we are going to have to gain throughout the first part of the season. I think with the sophomore class we have returning, we will be able to finish where we want.”
After claiming back-to-back South Atlantic Conference championships in 2010 and 2011, the women’s cross country team will be looking for its third league title in five years, while the men’s squad will be looking to improve on its’ solid third-place finish a year ago.
“Our focus is going to be on transitioning a lot of the newer kids into collegiate running,” Greer added. “It is a big adjustment for a lot of runners – with the [increase] in mileage. We just want to get everyone in and get the team around each other and go from there.”
“Devan [Fisher] and Sydney [Hazel] are our two seniors on the team and we are looking for a lot of leadership out of them,” Greer added. “We are hoping that their work ethic, along with what they do on the course, will play a lot into how the season goes.”
The young Trojan women’s squad, which includes just two upperclassmen has been tabbed fourth in the SAC Coaches’ Preseason Poll, edging perennial challenger Lenoir-Rhyne for the fourth spot in the poll.
AU’s lone senior, Sydney Hazel, earned Second-Team All-SAC honors for the second consecutive season with her 11th-place finish at last year’s championships, while redshirt junior Devan Fisher returns for her third season of competition.
“We return our top three on the women’s side,” Greer said. “Sydney Hazel, Olivia Gardner and Bari Robinson and we had a big track season out of Grace Gerlock, who we are hoping will come in and contribute significantly to the team this year. Amber Worthy also had a really good finish to the season last year [after dealing with injuries] and was running well at the end of the year. We are really hoping for her to look good this season, along with Mia Swiersz, who really made a breakthrough just like Grace did. With those girls returning and the girls coming in, I think it is probably the best women’s team that we have ever put together. That being said, expectations are high – it is just a matter of going out and getting in the shape we need to be in and running the races we need to run.”
Robinson nearly garnered All-South Atlantic Conference and all-freshman honors last season, finishing 15th at the SAC Championships last season, while
Gardner led the Trojan efforts in four meets.
“We are looking to have a big season out of a couple of our returners on the men’s side,” noted Greer. “Ben Boerma, Ned Kennedy, Jesse Patrick and Westley Wilson, along with Joshua Visi-Clark – should all be a very solid top group.”
The men’s team also boasts just two upperclassmen, with Visi-Clark, the lone senior, and Wilson, a graduate student, looking to lead the Trojans. Boerma, Kennedy and Patrick are all sophomores who gained valuable experience on the course last season. Boerma paced the Trojans at the Charlotte Invitational and nearly captured all-freshman accolades at last season’s South Atlantic Conference Championships.
“We are hoping their experience will help bring along Mason Hazel as a freshman,” Greer said. “He is a very talented runner and I think with their guidance, Mason will be able to get where he needs to be and the team will be able to run the way we need to run. On the men’s side we don’t have as much depth but we have more experience and some good incoming talent.”
Greer is looking for newcomers to add quality depth to the women’s team.
“We have Haylee Love, Alex Dixon and Taylor Morris coming in. We are bringing them in and hope they have a big impact on the team. We also have Allison Halperin, who we think will be a solid mid-pack runner for us. The girl’s team is looking really strong and we are going to be very solid. We have a lot of depth and some very talented runners. We will have a lot of girls we can plug into those top seven spots - It could change every week.
The Trojans open the season at the Queens Twilight meet on Sept. 6 in Charlotte, N.C.