Aug 29, 2014

2014 Outlook on Cross Country Season

A Winning Tradition

 
  • Eight NAIA Men's National Meets (5 Top 10 finishes)
  • Five NAIA District Men's Championships (1977, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992)
  • One NCCAA Women's National Championship (1988)
  • Nine NAIA Women's National Meets (6 Top 10 finishes)
  • Six NAIA Women's District Championships (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)
  • One Cascade Conference Women's Championship (1994)
  • Two NAIA Region Coaches of the Year
  • 10 Conference / District Coaches of the Year
  • 23 All-Americans (6 men, 17 women)
  • 53 Academic All-Americans (18 men, 35 women)
 

NEWBERG, Ore. --- When it comes to running competitively, so much of a team's success is a byproduct of numbers and competition. For the cross country teams at George Fox University, both men and women, that's also the thing that should serve them well during the 2014 season.

"The numbers in our program have increased dramatically," said head cross country coach Randy Dalzell. "And with that, so should the quality of the competition."

With about 16-18 runners on the women's team and 16 or so on the men's team, both sides should be setup quite well to see some added success. George Fox can take 10 runners to the Northwest Conference championships and seven runners to the regional championships where they should be right in the thick of the race, literally and figuratively.

For the men, the biggest obstacle the team will have to overcome is replacing graduated senior Joseph Pia. Pia earned NCAA All-West Region honors last fall and was the team's top finisher in four of six cross country races. Stepping in for Pia is senior Kody Tarbell.

"He looks like he could step right in to where Joseph was an All-Region, All-Conference runner," Dalzell said. "Kody just barely missed All-Region last year as our No. 2 guy.

"He looks great and will be the running leader as far as setting the pace for the men's team."

Initially expected to be the team's No. 2 runner, sophomore Cody Thompson's cross country season was slightly derailed due to a hip injury. During the spring track season, Thompson ran the 800M in 1:55 and the 1500M in 3:58. Dalzell still expects him to be among the top three or four guys on the team.

The team's biggest addition, though, might very well be freshman Christian Parr. Parr is from North Marion High School and is expected to make an immediate impact.

"Christian is a very good middle-distance runner in track and looks great in cross country right now … He certainly looks as if he'll be one of our top five guys as a freshman," Dalzell added. "It's really exciting to see."

Excitement that might also extend to another new arrival in "diamond in the rough" John "Bimba" Mansaray. "Bimba" joins the team after Dalzell and the coaches have worked to convert him from running sprints to middle distance after last track season.

"'Bimba' was a 400M runner, but he looked like more of a middle-distance guy," Dalzell said. "He started doing the summer training for cross country, and he looked really good. He's already running with our top group of guys right now." "Bimba" played soccer in high school and didn't participate in cross country or track and field.

——————

Serving as the biggest lift to the women's team is the return of senior Courtney Hochstetler. As a sophomore, Hochstetler was one of the team's top runners. She spent last fall studying abroad in California at a fashion school and returns to the team this year to pick up right where she left off. Hochstetler will make an immediate impact when it comes to the team's depth.

"Courtney is probably a stronger front-runner than anyone else we had last year," Dalzell said. "We'll be significantly improved now that we have a better overall runner and a lot stronger depth."

Depth, that is, that will be extremely valuable if the team wants to move up in the standings. Six of the top 10 teams in the region were from the Northwest Conference.

Besides simply being competitive, the depth will also be needed to stave off injuries and other issues. Two of the team's top runners have already experienced some roadblocks. Sommer Kirk, a sophomore Dalzell expected to be among the top five girls, recently tore her Achilles.

"Sommer's season is probably over unless she has some miraculous healing. It looked pretty bad," Dalzell said.

All is well that ends well, though, and the team is still expecting big things from yet another sophomore in Taylor Suwa. Suwa battled through a foot injury last fall and still finished as one of the team's top five runners. She will be making a strong play to be the team's No. 2 girl.

——————

Ultimately, Dalzell doesn't hide the fact that cross country is essential to the upward mobility of the track and field program, both for the indoor season, as well the outdoor one. Stick to the script, Dalzell emphasizes, and winning is also inevitable.

"We really do feel like there's no limits to what we can accomplish," he said. "If we consistently work really hard at the training program and recover well while also managing our time … The results will take care of themselves."

George Fox track and field will also reap the rewards, where the women's team has won four straight Northwest Conference championships.

"Our men's long-distance runners are really helping with a resurgence on the men's track and field team," Dalzell said. "What we've been doing to build that middle and long-distance group helps tremendously with the overall team structure.

"It'll be exciting to see by the time we host the conference championships in the spring if we can be in the running for a title. We certainly will for the women."