NORTON, MA- The Wheaton College men's and women's cross country teams enter the 2009 season at opposite spectrums, as over half of the men's roster is comprised of upperclassmen while only two of 11 on the women's side belong to the junior and senior classes, which will necessitate veteran head coach Paul Carr both manage and teach simultaneously.
"With this year's men, it's managing the process, where with the women it's teaching it," said the 11th-year coach. "The men will need to make sure they stay on track and not veer off in a different direction. With the women, it's probably going to take a little more time to bring this group along, having them understand what has to be done to be a competitive, championship cross country team."
Carr and sixth-year assistant coach Kim Spence '04 welcome back a women's squad that finished as the runner up at the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship for the second straight year. In fact, the Lyons have placed among the top two squads at the conference championship meet six times since 2000. Wheaton also took 15th at the 2008 NCAA Division III regional meet, while the men placed fifth at their NEWMAC Championship for the third consecutive fall.
In preparing for their first race at the Amherst College Invitational, Carr indicated the approach to meets will differ significantly this fall compared to years past. "What you're probably going to see is the full roster compete at every meet," said Carr. "We didn't do that last year, as there were meets where some athletes would stay with a coach here and practice on a Saturday while other members of the team would go and run."
Carr cites his hope that the younger runners will bounce back quicker as a reason for making a change in strategy as well as stressing the importance of getting them meet experience in order to prepare them for the championship portion of the season.
The lone female upperclassmen are senior Katie Pratt (Litchfield, CT/Litchfield) and junior Christina Nelson (Cranston, RI/Saint Mary Academy-Bay View), each of whom are captains. Pratt missed her junior season while traveling abroad after finishing as one of Wheaton's top-three runners four times as a sophomore. Nelson competed in four races last fall.
Sophomores Monica Black (North Kingstown, RI/North Kingstown), Savannah Geasey (Portsmouth, RI/Portsmouth), Kimberly Nash (Tempe, AZ/McClintock) and Rachel Scavera (North Bend, OR/North Bend) round out the list of returners. Scavera took ninth during Emmanuel College's Saints Invitational last year, while Nash came in 12th.
Wheaton's newest crop of athletes consists of sophomores Lauren Erickson (Mount Desert, ME/Mount Desert Island) and Taylor Wills (Kinderhook, NY/Ichabod Crane) and freshmen Savannah Moore (Plattsburgh, NY/Plattsburgh), Lindsay Petrenchik (Chagrin Falls, OH/Chagrin Falls) and Elizabeth Urena (Maywood, CA/Bell).
On the men's side, seniors Andrew Brunhofer (Westfield, NJ/Westfield) and Miles Souza (Norton, MA/Saint Sebastian's School) enter their fourth year of competition. Brunhofer looks to be more of a regular contributor on the meet circuit after only running in three events the last two years, as does Souza, who has competed in five meets since his sophomore year. Souza will serve his third year as a team captain.
Juniors Colin Fahey (Waltham, MA/Weston), Nick Kacher (Waltham, MA/Waltham) and Natan Levy (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Pine Crest School) return to the fold, as Kacher will serve as one of the team's two captains. Fahey was the top Lyon at the All New England Championship, finishing among Wheaton's top-two runners five times, while Kacher was Wheaton's fastest runner at the Division III New England Championship. Levy only competed in one race as a sophomore.
Sean Astle (Fairfield, CT/Fairfield Ludlowe) is the lone sophomore on the team and is gearing up for his first collegiate race, as are freshmen Jake Dunn (Bethlehem, PA/Liberty), Karl Mader (Northfield, MN/Northfield) and Michael Richard (Chicopee, MA/Holyoke Catholic).