A rebuilding year for cross country

Nolan Potts, ‘Doah Contributing Writer 
September 18, 2013

Cross country is a sport which requires an incredible amount of intrinsic desire, maybe more so than in any other sport. No athlete would run upwards of 16 miles on any given day, sometimes in 90+ degree heat, unless they were entirely committed and dedicated to their sport.

When you include the fact that some people get up for 6 a.m. workouts every single day while taking a rigorous class schedule, the dedication speaks for itself. For cross country runners at S.U., very early mornings, long runs, weight room sessions and even pool workouts are nothing out of the ordinary.

Coach Andy Marrocco is entering his eighth season as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country program, and the program has grown since he has taken over.

Last year, both the men and women’s teams took steps in the right direction, and the expectations of the teams are only going to grow in the years to come. Marrocco believes that their best opportunities as a program will be in 2014, but that doesn’t mean either team is content with wasting the 2013 season.

The women’s cross country team boasts seven girls, including returners Dorothy Earner, Nicole Legare, Emily Cobb and Mary Claire Miller. Also returning to the team is junior Rachel Coffin, who sat out last year. The two newcomers are freshman Shelby Shrader and sophomore Liz Paras. Despite the losses from last year’s squad, Marrocco still has high hopes for the women this season.

“I expect to see our women in the top five at the ODAC championships and place three on the All-Conference list,” Marrocco said. “Beyond the ODAC, I feel our women can begin to re-climb the ladder up the regional ranks again.”

The team is lead by Earner, who qualified for the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships last season, and placed 70 out of 181 runners at that event.

Marrocco believes that Earner can continue to build on her good performances last year and be even better this season. “Dorothy has a new focus and drive this year, and I feel she can be a top contender for the individual title.”

On the men’s side, they will feature six runners this year, including two returners in seniors Ryan Taylor and Kyle Lombardi. Matthew Gussiaas is the lone freshman on the squad this year. The other three men, Donald Shubrooks, David Johnson and Denzel White, have never run cross country collegiately, but are all members of S.U.’s Track and Field team.

Taylor was a NCAA Southeast Regional Championship qualifier on the squad last season, finishing 41 in the 160-runner field. Marrocco says that Taylor must continue to build upon his individual success to help the rest of his team.

Marrocco still has expectations for the men’s team this year, but he understands that inexperience and injuries may hurt them at some point during the season.

“The men are in the textbook definition of a team’s rebuilding year,” he said. “We are led by a tremendous number one in Ryan Taylor, but our next four are all new to the sport, and our number two, Kyle Lombardi has been dealing with a multi-week injury comeback.”

The teams have taken to Twitter with their motto, #theGOAL. As Marrocco puts it, the team understands winning doesn’t happen over night, and this hashtag symbolizes the dedication and commitment his runners are putting forward this year with next year’s season in mind.

“#theGOAL has been popping up in all their tweets about workout sessions, pool sessions, weight room sessions, long runs, etc.,” he said. “Everything this year is the foundation for next year. They are committed to a 518-day drive to winning the 2014 ODAC Cross Country Championship.

“The ODAC is also the strongest conference for cross country in our region, so winning an ODAC title can lead to a strengthened push to an NCAA Regional title, too.”

Marrocco has big expectations for both Earner and Taylor this season. They’ve both had success in the past, and it’s paramount that they continue to build upon that individual success in order to help their respective teams reach their goals they’ve set out to achieve.

“They both have the ability to qualify for the NCAA national championships,” he said. “They both want to win and have the ability ODAC. It comes down to smart training, calm nerves, and a perfectly executed race plan. They were both Conference Rookie of the Year, so hopefully this season will be the one where that promise is seen into reality.”

Hopefully for both the men and women’s teams, their intrinsic desire to win will motivate them to achieve the lofty goals they have set forth sooner rather than later.

Even though they believe their best chance to succeed will occur in 2014, there’s no reason with all the long, hard workouts these runners put in year round that they can’t make a name for themselves in the ODAC this season as well.

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