|Wooster's men's team returns 10 of its 12 letterwinners from a year ago, a season in which the Scots placed fourth in the NCAC.|
The College of Wooster men's cross country team made a big splash last year with a fourth-place finish at the North Coast Athletic Conference Championships, and with the program coming off its best showing since 2013, the bar has been raised for a team that returns 10 of its 12 letterwinners, including all three all-conference performers.
"We have high expectations for the Fighting Scots this year," said longtime head coach Dennis Rice. "We have a senior-driven team with great experience, especially at the championship level. We're confident and excited for the opportunities we're going to have come time for the NCAC and Great Lakes Regional Championships."
The senior trio of Jackson Feinknopf, Brian Lief, and David Westcott are at the head of the pack to start the season, and all three stepped up to deliver breakthrough all-conference performances at the 2017 NCAC Championships. Coincidentally, 2013 marked the last time the Scots had a trio of all-conference harriers.
"Our three captains have great experience, and a strong grasp of what's expected at the end of the season in terms of hitting our ultimate peak," summed up Rice. "These three worked very hard over the period of time they've been here to have this great opportunity as seniors to lead this team in the direction of challenging the top teams in the conference and region, and to see if they can give us the opportunity to get to the national championships."
Wooster has plenty of depth behind its returning all-conference trio, but Rice noted "the key to our overall success will be developing our four through seven runners, and closing the gap between them and our top three guys." That'll definitely be a tall order for the Scots, as Wooster had a 35.4 second gap between its one through five harriers at the 2017 NCAC Championships.
Junior Aedan Pettit headlines the returnees outside of the all-conference trio, and the veteran's proven time and time again that he has the capability to rise to the occasion at the championship level. Pettit, the Scots' No. 5 scorer in each of the last two years at NCACs, is coming off of a finish in the top third of the conference.
Rising sophomore Matt Klonowski and junior Miki Rae rounded out Wooster's top seven at last year's NCAC Championships, and both will also be counted on to take big strides to help Wooster maintain its position in the top five of the conference.
"Those guys had excellent springs to set them up well for a great summer of training," said Rice. "The key to our success is building off the big volume we created over the summer to work extremely hard over the next eight weeks to prepare for the championship part of the season. Those guys are definitely capable of closing the gap and they have the conference championship experience they need to be confident heading into the championship meets."
Sophomores Aidan Enright and Jackson Todd both showcased high potential as letterwinning rookies, and now settled into the program, Rice "expects those two guys to really push hard to be part of the top seven, be two of the guys who enhance our opportunity as a team throughout the season, and build that confidence to where they're capable of being up there with the top three guys."
Other returning letterwinners include seniors Hyuga Uchida and Simon Weyer, the former of whom worked his way up to earning a spot on the conference squad. They'll be complemented by senior Cullen King, a capable veteran with lots of big-meet experience.
At the end of the day though, Rice noted, "our top three guys have to make a jump in their capabilities at the conference and regional level to give us that opportunity to excel with the best."
Wooster's season opens on Friday, Aug. 31 when the Scots host their annual Wooster Invitational at L.C. Boles Golf Course.