The last time the ACU men’s cross-country team failed to win the LSC title, the majority of this year’s freshman class wasn’t even born yet, the first George Bush was president, and Bryan Adams recorded the #1 song in America. All signs point to the 2009 team continuing that run of dominance.
Both the men’s and women’s teams put on a strong showing in 2008, capturing numerous team and individual awards, although neither team was able to capture a national title. Most notably, the men’s team captured its 18th Lone Star Conference title en route to a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championship in Slippery Rock, Pa. The women’s team captured fifth place at the LSC Championship, although failing to qualify for the championship race.
The Wildcats also won impressive individual titles in 2008. The men’s team had five runners named to the all-LSC team, more than any other team. Junior Daniel Maina was named the top men’s runner in the conference, while freshman phenomenon Charles White was named Rookie of the Year. Perhaps most notably, Julius Nyango was named the conference’s top academic runner, highlighting ACU’s demand for academic excellence among its athletes.
The women’s team also garnered some great awards. Winrose Karunde was named the LSC women’s Runner of the Year, and was joined on the all-LSC team by teammate Loice Cheboi. Karunde also joined Julius Nyango in being named women’s Academic Runner of the Year.
First-year head coach Sam Burroughs was named the LSC Coach of the Year and the NCAA South Region Coach of the Year in 2008. A season removed from a coaching position at Division I cross-country powerhouse Iona College in New York, Burroughs has high expectations for the Wildcats.
“The men’s team should be better than it was last year,” Burroughs said. “We lost some key players, but on paper we are stronger. The question now is can we run better in colder conditions for nationals in Indiana.”
Burroughs is excited about this season’s recruiting class; he thinks the squad has a good mix of talent, including two freshmen, Spencer Lynn from White Oak and William Pike from Newnan, Ga. Four transfers – Tim Sumerlin from Colorado State; Colby Delbene a junior college transfer from New York; Romain Rybicki from France; and Craig Peters from Great Britain – and four returning runners – Cleophas Tanui, Amos Sang, Daniel Maina and Jacob Schofield – complete the team.
“I’m looking forward to working with this diverse team. I mean, we have talent from Texas, New York, France, Africa, England and other places,” Burroughs said. “Somehow, we will take all of the pieces to form a masterpiece and make something great.”
Schofield echoed Burrough’s sentiments, saying this year’s team should be strong enough to contend for a title.
“Overall, I think our team will be better than last year’s team,” Schofield said. “Our transfers from Europe are really strong and fast. Our top three should be awesome with Cleophas, Amos and Daniel.”
The men’s and women’s teams will kick off the 2009 season in a 5K in Anchorage, Alaska, at the Great Alaska Stampede Sept. 5. Burroughs said the match presents his teams with a rare opportunity.
“I’m excited because this may be many of the runners’ only chance to visit Alaska,” Burroughs said. “It will be a good way for the team to kick off the season, because the weather will be very cold, which will hopefully better prepare us for the National Championship.”
The Wildcats will race in Abilene twice; one race will be hosted by ACU, the other by McMurry University. The teams will also race in Evansville, Ind., and Joplin, Mo., rounding out the team’s regular-season schedule. The 2009 LSC Championship will take place at West Texas A&M Oct. 24, and the NCAA Regional will be in Abilene Nov. 7. The Wildcats ultimately have their sights set on the NCAA National Cross-Country Championships in Evansville, Ind., Nov. 14.