The Wilmington College Fightin' Quakers men's and women's cross country teams are deep in the midst of a rebuild, but like typical distance runners- they're persevering. They're welcoming the challenge, and they're ready to take on the season.
On the men's team, the Fightin' Quakers return ten runners, while adding six to the roster. Back in action this year, after suffering a season-ending injury last year is senior Hunter Stith, the team's top performer.
Senior Griffin Stith who stepped up tremendously last year, snagging the one-man spot and leading the team to a seventh-place finish has fallen subject to injury and may miss a good portion of the season.
Luckily, already demonstrating a great work ethic and making his mark on the team is top newcomer for the men, Gage Clemens who finished fifth in the Division II West Virginia High School state meet last year.
The women's team is extremely young this season. Their nine-women roster is made up entirely of freshmen and sophomore student-athletes. Of the three consistent top finishers from last season, only sophomore Alison Helmke returns, hoping to continue her reign as one of the program's quickest runners. However, Freshman McKenzie Hamm is working extremely hard in practice, hoping to claim a coveted top finisher spot herself.
Though the teams are relatively young, the combined roster size is significantly larger than it has been for the past two years, "Our numbers are better and we have a more talented and deeper group than we have had in the last two years. We do not have a lot of experience and many of our newcomers are learning what it takes to become a successful collegiate distance runner, but I'm excited to see what they can do," says Wilmington College head cross country coach Ron Combs.
Not only did the Fightin' Quakers add runners to their program, but they also added an intern coach, Eric Hansen. "Eric is a 2017 graduate of Ashland University and was a successful middle distance runner there," says coach Combs. "I'm excited to have him and I like the energy and knowledge he has brought to our program."
Wilmington opens the 2017 season at 5:00 p.m. September 1 at the Muskingum University Invitational.