The VCU men’s and women’s cross country team opens its 2015 season Sept. 1 in Richmond at the Christopher Newport University exhibition meet.
Heading into the fall, the men’s and women’s squad presents drastically different outlooks.
Last year’s Atlantic-10 championships saw the men’s team post three top 100 finishers in the 8k, all of whom were seniors and have since graduated. The women on the other hand posted four top-100 finishers in the 5k, all under-classman who will return this season to once again run for the Rams.
Although the men do not return a top-100 finisher from the A-10 Championship, juniors Austin Lushinski (103rd) and Calvin Wood (114th) will look to take on the vacated leadership mantle for an inexperienced men’s side.
Sophomore Bismillah Alidost (121st) and transfer senior John Walsh (Seton Hall University) will also look to provide major contributions. Lushinski will seek to break a 26:00 8k for the first time in his career this season and Walsh could prove to be a dark horse candidate to assume the pace-setter role vacated this year by Mohamad Adam, who graduated this past May.
The key for the men’s side this year could prove to be the maturation of runners who showed promise in past seasons such as Lushinski, Wood and Alidost in the glaring absence of three decorated graduates. If they hope to succeed in 2015, these lead roles will have to be filled.
Emily Dyke, Nichelle Scott, Courtney Holleran and Kathleen Gardner lead a women’s team loaded with potential. Dyke, a junior, was the pace-setter for the Rams last year with an 18:55.2 5k time, good enough for 39th at the A-10 Championships in Pittsburgh. She will speculatively seek to break 18 minutes this season, an impressive feat at the collegiate level.
The other three, all rising sophomores in 2015, finished in the top-100 while running respectable sub-20:00 times in the 5k. Upper-classman seeking to contribute include senior Elizabeth Stump and juniors Maggie Grumbine, Caitlin McNicholl and Lindsay Steeley. McNicholl is the lone upperclassman with A-10 Championship experience, as she finished with a time of 20:36.6 in last year’s 5k, just behind her younger teammates.
The September 1, meet will serve as a means for our young runners to fine tune their techniques and knock off any summer rust before the ball really gets rolling at the University of Richmond invite on September 5.