With a solid contingent of front-runners, cross-country coach Hayden Smith is focusing on improving overall team strength and depth this year.
“We have at least four guys who are running collegiate cross-country for the first time,” said Paul Lewis, Albion junior. “The new guys are adjusting well, though.”
Lewis said that the men’s team lacks a deep roster this season. However, Lewis still believes that the Britons can achieve success.
“When we made it to Nationals two years ago, we were thin,” Lewis said. “All it means is there’s no room for error.”
The team’s lack of depth can be attributed to the graduation of six seniors from last year’s squad. Meanwhile, incoming first-years that are new to the program have had to quickly adjust to collegiate level competition. The Britons have been forced to rely on strong individual performances.
“Every one of us has to take seriously the fact that if any of us don’t live up to our individual expectations, our chances at being great this year drop significantly,” Lewis said.
Smith is hopeful that the Brits can find strong runners to shore up the back end of their lineup.
“Paul Lewis, Mitch Klingler and Matt Melvin are really even at this point at our one, two and three spots,” Smith said. “It’s been a strong three. We just need to get a fourth and a fifth [runner] a little closer.”
On the women’s side, the Britons are currently unranked in the USTFCCCA NCAA Division III Regional Rankings. The squad had previously been ranked number 10 in the region. Abby Hess, Dexter senior, said she thinks the Britons can regain a regional rankings this season.
“We have a strong top 10,” Hess said. “We just need to fill a few gaps.”
The women’s team has a solid squad, lead by Amanda Weaver, Marshall senior. Weaver was the first Division III runner finish at the Michigan Intercollegiate Championships on Oct. 5, recording a time of 17:58 in the 5k race.
The Albion cross-country women’s team hopes to improve it’s current fourth place ranking in the MIAA and to eventually snag a spot in the NCAA postseason races. Smith said the women’s squad has the potential to achieve it’s goals.
“I’m optimistic [for the prospects of the woman’s team],” Smith said. “The team is making excellent progress. We just need to tighten up the time between some of the runners.”
Photo courtesy of Alex Carey