While in many cases college cross country can be looked at as an individual sport, the Geneva College cross country team has developed into quite the team. Head coach Brian Yowler has assembled a group of men and women that have come together in recent years to develop into a solid group on and off the course. “We have grown very close,” says Yowler. “Each of our student-athletes has made the commitment to each other to train hard and log thousands of miles. It will be exciting to see the improvements that no doubt will come as a result of their training.”
Unlike many of the other athletic programs at Geneva, the cross country team had the chance to go face to face against PAC opponents in a championship setting. Although their results didn't count in the final tally, the Golden Tornadoes have competed at the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships in each of the last four years. Last year, Geneva finished third a year ago on both the men’s and women’s side of the ledger. In 2011, the goal of finishing at least third in the conference remains. “Grove City and Saint Vincent are quite good,” says Yowler. “They have programs that we aspire to be sooner than later. Our goal is to get to that level very soon. It has really been a battle for third place in each of the past four years behind those two schools and we will once again be right in the middle of that mix.”
On the men’s side, Ryan Thorn graduated and others will have to pick up that slack. The most obvious choice to lead the 2011 squad will be junior captain Nick Edinger. Expectations are understandably high for Edinger as he enters his third year at the collegiate level. “Nick may very well run the fastest 8K in school history this fall,” says Yowler. “He is already one of the fastest guys in school history and could be our first NCAA DIII qualifier by season’s end.” Senior Chuck Walters and junior Owen Struck will also be significant contributors along with senior Nate Mansor, junior Chez Anderson and sophomores Jacob Beschner and Charles Parker. “We are also looking forward to the immediate impact from Aaron Ferguson,” says Yowler. “Ferguson should show immediate dividends as a freshman runner.”
“When you have dynamic seniors like Julia Urbanski and Sarah Davis graduate out of the program it leaves a void,” says Yowler. “The good news is that they both left such a legacy for our other athletes to follow, their presence should still be felt moving forward.” Geneva will feature a smaller team in numbers of athletes on the women’s side, but an equally talented squad. With a solid group of underclassmen prepared to carry the torch, it will be an exciting time for women’s cross country to see exactly which athletes will step up. “Similar to the men, we will be looking to hold our spot near the top of the PAC,” says Yowler. “Shannon Rech and Alayna Merkle enjoyed great success a year ago and we will again look for their leadership in 2011.” Additionally, senior Emily Hoobler will be an important component this season along with the addition of freshmen Heidi Steiner and Anna Kluitenberg.
“We have some exciting newcomers to the program on both the men’s and women’s teams,” explains Yowler. “We have to keep moving forward and pushing one another to make our teams the best they can be. We have taken great strides in the last few years and our goal is to keep moving forward and make an impact in our first years as members of the PAC and NCAA Division III.”