Aug 22, 2016

Cross Country 2016 Season Preview

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)
 

By: Ryan Lackey

NEWBERG, Ore. --- As 2016's first race approaches, athletes representing other colleges will notice that this year's crop of Bruin runners looks awfully similar to last year's. In fact, on the women's side, the Bruins didn't lose a single top-10 runner, and the men lost just one – All-Region runner Bryant Quinn, who's still with the Bruins as a graduate assistant. That sort of continuity is rare in collegiate sports, and head coach Randy Dalzell is excited about what it could mean for the Bruins' prospects this year.

"We've got our core group returning," said Dalzell, "and that's a very strong group. Our men can take a big step up in conference and regionally, and the women, too, should be even better."

With that core veteran presence anchoring the team, the incoming runners, explained Dalzell, will enjoy plenty of mentorship. And, happily for the Bruins, the incoming class is loaded with potential.

"We have eight new male runners coming in, and they're all quality runners," Dalzell said. "Eight new women, too, and they're also very strong."

With 16 new runners bolstering the ranks, the Bruins will have something they've lacked in recent years: depth. Last year, Dalzell said, middle-distance runners, specializing in the 800 or 1,500 meters during the spring track season, were pressed into competitive spots, running much longer distances. Now, as the Bruins add runners – they're up to 39 between the men and women – that's no longer necessary.

"We're definitely deeper and healthier," Dalzell said. "We should be quite a bit better. We won't have the depth issues we had last year."

Injuries hit the women particularly hard, he said.

"We just had a rash of weird injuries … car accidents, off-season injuries in other sports," he said. "We began with the same number of women as men, but after the injuries we lost half the team."

This year, though, Rachel Gibbs will return after picking up a knock during lacrosse. She'll join Kayla Moore and Grace Ferguson – also injured last year – to form the Bruins' nexus.

For the men, the Bruins look strong despite the loss of Quinn. Now, Quinn's on the coaching side, and he'll be working with sophomore Josh Meyer, who very nearly earned an All-Region nod last year as a freshman, and junior Colin Atchison, who Dalzell said made impressive strides in the spring. In fact, the USTFCCA Regional Rankings came out this fall with the Bruins sitting at No. 7 in the west region. 

"He really developed last year," Dalzell said of Atchison. "He's one of our returning leaders. And Kayla Moore is running great. We have plenty of leaders."

Ideally, everything will come together and the Bruins will take home a conference title. But Dalzell says that's only one measure of success; his model is threefold.

"There are three ways to measure success for us," he said. "The first is placing in conference and the region. The second is to get individuals qualified for All-Region spots, like Bryant last year. And, third, having more numbers and more depth – having more people run with us to be better prepared for track. With the numbers coming in, that third goal is already a success. But the greatest measure is, does each runner improve during the season?"

The Bruins will begin that long race toward improvement and success on Aug. 27 during the 3K team time trial. Their first meet, the Linfield Invitational, is Sept. 2 in McMinnville.