The College of Wooster men's track and field team features an array of young returning talent that looks to up the ante after another year of competition that found the men finishing in sixth-place at last year's North Coast Athletic Conference Indoor Championships and two spots back at the outdoor championships in May.
"We are excited about the upcoming season," said veteran head coach Dennis Rice. "We have great numbers, and we know we have some untapped potential mixed in with the core group, and if we can build confidence within the team setting as we progress through the season, we will hit that ultimate goal of hitting our peak at the outdoor championships."
Rice expects Wooster's balance to display itself throughout the season as the Fighting Scots ready themselves for the upcoming indoor season.
"We as a staff know how critical the next seven weeks of indoor is to be able to get where we want to be by the time we get to the end of the outdoor season," added Rice. "The next seven weeks gives us the chance to continue to develop, make improvements, and build confidence within the team concept."
As a two-time all-region runner in cross country, Pecoraro looks to cap an accomplished running career at the College, having previously held the indoor 3,000 meters record (8:47.31) before sophomore Jacob Denbeaux, who is coming off a strong cross country season in the fall, broke Pecoraro's record as a first-year with a program-best time of 8:46.06 at last year's NCAC indoor championships.
Chabraja, who has been bitten by the injury bug in years past, has proven that he can run with the best with a sixth-place run in the 3,000 meters at last year's All-Ohio indoor championships and consistent showings in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Senior Roy Hadfield carries big-meet experience in the steeplechase and 1,500 meters, while sophomore David Westcott shows tremendous potential and that he's capable of challenging the best guys in the conference, according to the coaching staff.
The Scots' distance medley relay has been a prideful point for the Scots in recent years. Along with Denbeaux, headlining this quartet are fellow classmates Cullen King, Simon Weyer, and Brian Lief, who as first-years teamed up to turn in a school-record time of 10:30.35, besting the 3-year-old program record of 10:32.63 to earn all-conference accolades.
Two-time all-conference honoree Lief will look to lead the way for Wooster in the 800 meters after garnering third-place honors (1:55.31) at last year's outdoor conference championships, while Denbeaux will challenge for the top spot in the conference in the 1,500 meters after a third-place finish last year (4:00.93).
In the jumps, a youthful group will look to continue making gains as the season progresses.
Rice expects sophomore Jack Petrecca, who participated in basketball and track and field last year, to challenge as a top-contender in the high jump after just missing all-conference honors with a fourth-place jump (6 feet, 3.25 inches).
Wooster's throwing contingent was hit hardest by graduation, but Rice and his staff expect to fill the gap with continued development through practice and the recruiting process.
In the long jump, sophomore Jarret Art marks the top returning long jumper for the Scots, finishing just outside the top-10 at the conference meet, while senior Conor Maley – a potential key-in in the multi-events – returns with scoring potential in multiple events, including the triple jump and long jump.
"Conor is an excellent well-rounded athlete, and he can score for us in multiple events as long as he stays healthy," Rice said.
A heavy dose of youth fills the sprinters' table, led by senior Thomas McGrath and sophomores Justin Fox, Cody Park, Myles Parker, and Antonio Bailey, a two-sport athlete in football and track and field.
Between the men's and women's teams, Rice expects to welcome a solid group of two-sport athletes in addition to Bailey, noting the benefits and opportunities it grants student-athletes.
"I always think being involved in multiple sports is beneficial," Rice said. "I really feel strongly about that. I think that being a two-sport athlete enhances track and field, too. The greatest thing about Division III is the opportunity to be a two-sport athlete, and that's a big emphasis at Wooster."
In the hurdles, sophomore Jordan Dennis is coming off an injury but shows a great deal of potential, according to Rice, who also expects sophomore Andrew Gold to provide scoring potential after competing in the 400 hurdles at last year's outdoor conference championships.
With a mixture of youth and experience, Rice expects to see a team "continue to develop, make improvements, and build confidence within the team concept."
"We are excited about the men and excited about the potential the men have and the opportunities they will have throughout the season and it should be a great season for us," summed up Rice.
Wooster commences the 2017 season on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Crimson & Gold Invitational at Oberlin College, with field events starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by the track events at 7 p.m.