After a 2016 campaign that saw the men’s and women’s cross country teams finish 7th and 10th respectively at regionals, the runners are backed by experience that could help them make a run at the Peach Belt Conference title.
The men’s cross country team features a strong group of returners that includes five juniors and three seniors. They are joined by a pair of freshman that includes Kenya native Silus Kipkoech, the winner of the PBC 5,000-meter championship on last spring’s track team.
Junior Logan Ward figures to keep his position as a leader of the squad after posting a team-best time of 32:09.13 to finish 31st at regionals.
Other key returners include juniors Kellen Corson, Curtis Haynie and the Martin twins, Jonathan and Matthew. Nate Nash, Nathan Pollard and A.J. Sayers-O’Neill make up the team’s senior class.
Holden Newman, Kipkoech’s fellow newcomer, hails from Washington, N.C. He prepped at Northside High School, where he was a two-time all-conference standout.
The women’s cross country team lost two of their top three finishers at regionals to graduation. Lea Tardanico, who clocked a team-high 22:57.76 for a 35th-place finish in the 6k race, wrapped up her collegiate career last fall along with Olivia Lowman, who finished 43rd with a 23:12.19 mark. Senior leader Catherine George also graduated from last season’s group.
The Braves will benefit from the experience of graduate student Morgan Sheehan, a former tennis player who joined the cross country program when her team was discontinued.
Sophomore Michaela Reynolds also returns for the Black and Gold. Reynolds, a California native, had the team’s second-highest finish at regionals with a time of 23:07.54.
The cross country teams will take on a challenging slate of races that begins with the Elon opener on Sept. 2 and ends with a trip to Tallahassee for the Florida State University Invitational on Oct. 6. The PBC championships will follow on Oct. 21 in Columbus, Ga. If the Braves are eligible for regionals, they will make the short trek down to Wingate for the NCAA Southeast Region Championships.