By Rachel Mills
Review staff writer
The off-season has been hard on the men’s cross country team.
“We lost a lot of guys,” junior Shawn Fisher, a 2007 All-Region performer, said. He said that the 2007 team of nine only graduated three men but lost two others before the season began.
The team has only four returning runners, but seven freshmen are stepping up to fill the empty spots.
“We’re a young team,” freshman Scott Gage said. “But I think we have a lot of potential.”
Head coach Gary Killgore is planning to tap into that potential.
“We work very hard early in the season to set us up for success in the championships,” he said, adding that the hard work will pay off.
Killgore, in his 20th season with the team, said he believes that Fisher and junior Chris McIssac both have an excellent chance to compete well at the national level this year.
“I think we will be strong competitors this season,” assistant coach Greg Mitchell said. “The team can challenge for the conference title if they put forth the effort. It will be tough to make it as a team to nationals, but we will definitely be sending some individuals.”
But for now the coaches are keeping the team focused, Fisher said.
“[Killgore] focuses on conference and regional meets and on the end of the season. He knows which meets we can skip and which ones are really important for us to do well in,” he said.
The Wildcats already competed in two meets and will be competing in five more before regionals. The team took fifth at their first meet, the Whitman Invitational, with an average of 26 minutes, 29 seconds for the eight kilometer race.
Individuals, however, fared better. Fisher led the team, taking seventh overall with a time of 25:20. Both Fisher and Gage landed in the top 20 at their second meet, running the 6k in 19:57 and 20:34 respectively.
Mitchell is pleased with the runners’ individual performances.
“Shawn had a solid start at Western,“ he said.
Despite the bumper crop of freshmen this year, Fisher said the experienced runners would ensure there would be no stumbles during the course of the season.
The coaches said that Fisher and junior Tyler Davis will lead the inexperienced team this year, along with teammate McIssac when he returns from injury. “All of them are strong competitors,” Mitchell said. “They are good role models who work hard and compete hard.”
Killgore said Gage and freshmen Eric Weinbender and Arian Anderson will likely round off the top five in his group of runners.