2013-14 Most Improved Teams - Men's Cross Country

July 10, 2014

As part of the University of Cincinnati Athletics annual awards, GoBEARCATS.com will recognize three of the department's programs as most improved during the 2013-14 year from July 8-10. Following recaps of the men's golf season and the women's soccer campaign, today we recognize the men's cross country season.

The 2013-14 season marked a new era for the men's cross country and track and field programs at the University of Cincinnati. For the first time in over three decades, Bill Schneir would not be leading the two programs. For the men's cross country team, head cross country and track and field coach Kris Mack would lean heavily on associate head cross country coach Sam Burroughs to develop the UC harriers into a contender.

While Mack had been with the Bearcats for a few years prior to inheriting the program from Schneir, Burroughs was new to Cincinnati as he took over a role working with the cross country teams and the middle and long-distance track athletes. While the men's cross country program could feel the momentum building throughout the season, things really began to materialize at the Pre-National meet in Terre Haute, Ind., on Oct. 19.

In a race which included multiple top-10 programs and over 350 runners, the Bearcats ran strong, seeing four runners set personal bests on an 8K course. The meet, serving as the annual preview of the NCAA Championships which would be held on the same course in November, saw a team finish of 50th place, but for Mack and Burroughs, it was all about posting strong times in the final tune-up before the conference championships.

At the league meet, the Bearcats finished among the conference's top three teams for the first time in 10 years, paced by four seniors as they edged Memphis by two points (75-77) to finish as runners-up. It marked the best finish for the program since placing second at the 2003 Conference USA Championships.

"After the race, the chatter around the finish line was Houston or UConn had gotten second to a strong Louisville team," Burroughs said. "But it was the two-point swing of Greg Sanders passing a Memphis runner right at the line that secured our second place finish."

The Turning Point

Pre-National Meet (Oct. 19, 2013)

While the results may look as if the league championships are when the team "arrived", Burroughs feels the turning point of the season was really the performance at the Pre-National meet in Terre Haute. Cross country is all about building off the previous race, and he felt the Pre-Nationals set the Bearcats up for their performance at the American's meet.

"The Pre-National meet is a good barometer of where a team is," Burroughs said. "Team morale was high coming off that weekend as we had a handful of guys post lifetime bests for 8K there. Eric Hauser's outstanding performance from the unseeded race gave us hope that we could pull off a great team showing at the American championship."

The Future

While the results in 2013 were paced mostly by seniors, the future remains strong under the leadership of Mack and Burroughs.

"Even though we only return two of our scoring five (from 2013-14), we have a very talented recruiting class coming in and also will see some of those just outside the top five last year step it up," said Mack. " Even though the University of Louisville (last years champion) has left the league, we bring in an even more decorated Tulsa team. We have the ability to continue to be a top-three team and compete for the American title."

Mack also emphasized the role Burroughs has played in moving the program forward.

"Sam has done a great job in his inaugural year as our associate head cross country coach," Mack said. "He has created a great, new and exciting culture that will continue to grow and allow our distance program to flourish in the years to come."