By Alex Reid in Sports
May 3, 2012
Only great teams know how to win when faced with adversity. Last season, despite having to overcome countless obstacles, the Lock Haven University men’s and women’s cross country teams did something together that they’d never done before — go to nationals.
Entering his 11th season as head coach, Aaron Russell has high expectations for his teams this fall. “This year I expect great things from our teams. On the men’s side we’re battling for the national championship every year. With Alex Monroe Back and with a healthy roster, I believe that we’ll accomplish great things this season.”
Under the helm of Russell his men’s team has only missed nationals once and has won four back-to-back PSAC Championships from 2003-2006. Unlike the dynasty of the men’s program, the women’s team reached a pinnacle of success that it had never achieved before by going to its first national championship. “Last year we took a huge step with the women’s program moving up to third in our conference and second at regionals. The women’s conference is incredibly deep in talent; so, taking our team back to nationals will be a tough challenge, but it’s one that I know we’ll be prepared for.”
With a new season only four months away most cross country teams are trying to rebuild their rosters. Despite losing seniors Josh Gainer, Mitch Miller, and Tim Getz, Russell will have the luxury of having most of his starters back for next season, including redshirt All-American and 2010 Atlantic Regional Champion, Nate Zondlo. “Having Nate Zondlo back will be huge for us. We have some other key runners that red shirted last season like Sean Nordberg and Rodney Rosario.”
The women’s team will, unfortunately, be losing seniors Lindsay Lambert and Rachel Taylor. Both of these women have been staples in the program for years and were pivotal in their success at nationals. “These women will definitely be missed. Lindsay has accomplished so much during her time at Lock Haven. Lindsay had to run through a lot of injuries last season and was still able to help us get to nationals.”
Along with retaining a healthy roster of experienced veteran runners, coach Russell is excited about a couple of incoming freshman who he believes could have an immediate impact.
Dylan Mountain of Altoona, Pa., and Marissa Long, of Belleville, Pa., are both all-state selections who Russell believes will fit incredibly well into his program. Last year Mountain lead his team to its fifth consecutive District 6 Class AAA title, by placing second overall. Long a middle distance specialist, had an impressive finish this year at the PTFCA Indoor track and field state championships, placing fifth overall in the 800m.
With a plethora of talent coming back and new potential superstars arriving on campus this summer Russell has an unwavering sense confidence heading into the new season. While optimistic Russell believes that his teams will have to improve in certain areas in order to become national champions.
“Last year our training was strength oriented and the biggest thing that we’ll be improving on this summer is our speed. Keeping our guys healthy before the start of the season will be vital in our overall success. Injuries came in monsoon fashion and are what really held us back last season. To be successful we’re going to have to be on top of the little things. If we can stay healthy and continue to train hard in our program we’ll be more than ready.”