Cross Country |
Feb. 3, 2009
By JEFF GENTIL
Despite a somewhat sour end to the 2008 UC cross country season, Coach Bill Schnier and the rest of the Bearcats will ultimately look back and consider it a rousing success. With several top finishes and some outstanding individual performances, the Bearcat runners put together the kind of season Schnier believed they could.
“For the men, it was a very good season,” he said. “We got a lot out of what we had. Every meet was satisfying. I was happy with what we did. The last meet (Great Lakes Regionals), the Kings (Randy and Rick) did very well, but we just didn’t have enough backups. But it was a very good season. We took second at the All-Ohio and sixth at the BIG EAST Championship. We did fall to 13th at the Regionals and we were ranked 10th going in, so I think everyone believed we underachieved.”
While results are important, sometimes having a cohesive unit with great chemistry is the mark of a great season.
“They all got along very well,” Schnier said. “They were all excited about competing at every meet. I was pleased with the whole group. They trained hard in the summer and during the season, too.”
Junior Tommy Morgan concurs with Schnier’s assessment of the team: “The season was great. We had a lot of chemistry. It was a lot of fun and everyone got along well. Sixth place in the BIG EAST is a pretty big deal for us, too.”
Freshman Eric Finan says the end of the season will not put a damper on the success of the rest of the year: “The Regional meet was a disappointment, but it can’t erase all the accomplishments from the season.”
The UC women’s team also had a strong season, including second place at the All-Ohio Invitational.
“We got 12th at the Regional meet; I thought we would do better than that,” Schnier said. “We had a good top four runners, but just didn’t get that fifth and that was disappointing. But we still did very well. We did what I thought we could do with the second at All-Ohio and ninth at the BIG EAST meet.”
In a season of standout performances, sophomore Lilian Jelimo stood out the most as she led the women in all eight meets during the season. She not only led the Bearcats in those races, but she was the top woman in four, including the Queen City Invitational in Alexandria, Ky., the Mel Brodt Invitational at Bowling Green, the Ohio University Invitational in Athens, and the All-Ohio Invitational in Delaware. But Jelimo’s season ended abruptly at the Great Lakes Regional Meet.
“Lilian got sick right before the Regionals and she didn’t qualify for the NCAA meet,” Schnier said. “Of the four who qualified, she had beaten three of those girls in every other meet prior to the Regionals.”
Sophomore Jill Glassmeyer, junior Tamara Masters and senior Megan Knapp put together solid seasons as well. Knapp has exhausted her eligibility.
“(Knapp) is our captain and was one of our top three or four runners at every meet,” Schnier said. “It will be a big loss, but that’s sports. You come, run, then leave so quickly.”
However, with Jelimo, Glassmeyer and Masters returning, Schnier is already looking forward to a great 2009 season.
“The women are in better shape (than the men’s team),” he said. “We’ll have three of our top four runners returning and it will be a very good top three. We’ll have an outstanding nucleus and most teams would be extremely happy to have those three returning.”
Masters is also excited about the next cross country season.
“I think we were a better team than we showed at the Regionals,” she said. “We had a lot of talent, but not a lot of depth and it showed at times when we didn’t all run good races at the same time. But next year, if we can have some of the freshmen step up like they did toward the end of this year, we can have the most successful year ever for women’s cross country here at UC.”
Masters also said everyone felt bad for Jelimo’s disappointing end of the season.
“Lilian is definitely a Nationals-caliber runner,” she said. “We know it and the teams in the area know it, too. She’s really going to get after it next year. She’s really determined. She deserves to be there (at the NCAA meet). Hopefully, the third time is the charm.”
The men’s team will be hit hard by graduation. Kyle Dragan, Bill Keckeis, Scott Mindel and Brad Babiak have run their last races as part of the cross country team. However, the most important, and perhaps deepest, losses will be the twin brothers — Randy and Rick King — who are not only outstanding runners, but great leaders. They will be sorely missed.
“They will be our biggest loss,” Schnier said. “They set the tone for the whole season with their consistency. You always lose your best people, but I like to think the others who are staying, or moving up, will be just as good.”
Morgan says although the team will lose a lot, there is a lot of talent remaining.
“I have really high hopes for next year,” he said. “Eric Finan got a lot of experience. And he has plenty of room to improve, too. (Sophomore) Kyle Lang made tremendous improvements this year. He ran well all the way through Regionals. Solomon Kessio ran well, too. We all should be leading the team next year and we’re hoping Coach can get out there and recruit some guys. It’s hard to depend on freshmen, but we might need them to help round out the squad next year. We’re
just going to have to train harder next summer.”
For Morgan, next year’s results might be even better if he can stay healthy. After getting off to a great start, he started experiencing knee discomfort that hampered him throughout the season. And since he had already participated in the first few meets, he was not eligible for a medical redshirt, so he had to press on. Still, he had a very good season.
“I worked through it,” he said. “I had to stay patient. It was really frustrating at times, but I was able to run through it. I was pretty happy with how I raced.”
No one likes to see a season come to an end, but the events that took place shortly after the Regional meet actually happened at the perfect time. Morgan suffered an ulcer on the cornea of his eye and if the season had still been going, would have had to sit out.
“I was planning on taking a few weeks off anyway,” he said. “So, by the time my eye heals, my knee hopefully will have had a chance to heal as well. I can start my training program right away without missing much.”
With a nucleus of Morgan, Finan and Lang, Schnier believes the men’s team has the potential to bounce back quickly.
“They are very talented runners,” he said. “I believe they are one year away from being outstanding.”
(This story was previously posted in the Bearcat Sports Digest.)