Experience, depth look to propel men’s cross country

courtesy of case sports information

Peter Cooke, Sports Editor

A tough finish for Case Western Reserve University in the 2011 University Athletic Association championship has left this year’s squad older, wiser, and hungry for more.  The Spartans return this fall with an experienced squad that features three all-region performers in one of the nation’s toughest areas.

Twelfth-year head coach Kathy Lanese returns five of her seven runners from last year’s regional lineup as part of a deep 37-person roster that hopes to improve on seventh-place finishes at last year’s UAA Championship and NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship.

“We have two clear-cut goals this year – first is to improve our place at the UAA Championship and second is to get back up to one of the top spots in the region,” said Lanese. “It is vital that we improve as a team race-to-race. Consistent improvement will help build confidence and take us to a new level of competition.”

The first step to reaching that goal comes this Friday at 11 a.m. at the Squire Valleevue Farm, when the 12th Annual Bill Sudeck Classic takes place.

Leading the way for the Spartans this season will be senior classmates and co-captains Chris Kelly and Ethan Teare.

Kelly competed in six varsity races last season with a pair of top-10 finishes. A two-time UAA All-Academic selection, Kelly brought the field home at the season-opening Bill Sudeck Classic with a winning six-kilometer time of 20:07.80. Kelly also finished fifth overall at the All-Ohio Championship with an eight-kilometer time of 26:03.30. In the final two races of the season, Kelly placed 24th at the UAA Championship and 44th at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. During his sophomore season in 2010, Kelly was an all-region performer (31st overall) and just missed out on All-UAA honors (17th overall).

Teare progressed steadily over each week last fall and saved his best performances for championship season. Also a two-time UAA All-Academic honoree, Teare led the Spartans to the finish line in both the UAA Championship (18th/26:27.21) and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional with a season-best and all-region eight-kilometer (16th/25:31.83).

The co-captains are just two of the team’s 18 upperclassmen and all of them are expected to have positive effect on the 16 freshmen who hope to join this year’s squad.

Looking to make their moves in the top seven are juniors David Dixon and Corey Williams, as well as seniors Ben Yavitt and Phil Yeung.  Dixon and Yavitt were both in the lineup at regionals last season.

Overall, Dixon competed in six varsity races and was named UAA All-Academic. The third-year Spartan placed 42nd overall with a season-best eight-kilometer time (26:22.20) at the Calvin College Knight Invitational, while finishing 69th at the UAA Championship and 58th at the Great Lakes Regional.

Yavitt logged action in five races and finished 61st at the UAA meet (28:04.23) and 123rd at the regional meet (27:27.30), while Williams looks to build off of a strong track season this past spring.

Yeung did not compete during the cross-country season last fall, but he also ran track in the spring. As a freshman in 2009, Yeung earned all-region honors via a 30th-place performance in a time of 26:46.

“David, Corey, Ben, and Phil each made significant improvements on the track in the spring, and they are true leaders on the cross country course,” noted Lanese. “A lot of our success as a team will depend greatly on how that quartet solidifies our scoring each week.

The Spartans’ annually daunting schedule begins on Saturday, Sept. 1, with the 12th Annual Bill Sudeck Classic at Squire Valleevue Farm. Later that month, the All-Ohio Championships will be run on Sept. 29 at Cedarville University.

The UAA Championship will take place on Oct. 27 at the University of Rochester where defending conference champion Washington University looks to have a strong hold on the title.  Washington finished with 46 points, ahead of top-three finishers New York University with 64 points and the University of Chicago with 79 points.  Brandeis University finished with a strong lock on fourth with 118 points.  The Spartans main competition will be in a tight four-way battle for fourth where Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Rochester, Case, and Emory University all finished within 28 points of each other.

The Spartans will close out their season with meets at the NCAA Regionals at Anderson University on Nov. 10 and the NCAA Championship at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Nov. 17.