Cross country teams look to continue improving in 2014

BREVARD, N.C. - Coaching any sport at the NCAA’s Division II level can be a nerve-wracking business. Money is short, athletes come and go, and an injury or two can quickly wreck plans and expectations.

No one knows that any better than Brevard College cross country head coach Adam Malloy.

A year ago, Malloy was preparing for his first season at BC, following a successful two-year stint as head man at Northwestern (La.) State in the Southland Conference. He knew that his strength was on the men’s side of his roster, with four talented seniors set to complete.

“Last fall’s team petty well performed up to my expectations,” Malloy said. “But, I always think that, with a break here or there, we could have done a little better.”

Last October, the BC men finished a strong fourth, missing third place by only three points, among 12 South Atlantic Conference teams in the SAC championships at Black Mountain, North Carolina. Senior all-SAC runner Josh Mower took fourth in the 8K race, the highest finish for a Tornado athlete in school history. The BC women finished in sixth place.

At the season-ending NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Championship in Charlotte, Josh Mower, Eric Gibbs, Jordan Tager and Marc DeLisle led the BC men to a 16th place finish. Angela Canale, Heidi Kaartinen and Madison Smith paced the women, who finished 20th among the 40 or so teams in the region.

But, what a difference a year makes.

Seniors Mower, Patrick Helmick, Gibbs and Tager have graduated and moved on. Greenville, South Carolina. native DeLisle, who was named to the SAC all-freshman team after a top-20 performance at Black Mountain a year ago, is not returning for the 2014 campaign.

The bottom line is that Coach Molloy is now looking at almost the opposite situation from the one he faced a year ago. His women’s team is expected to excel this season, while an inexperienced men's squad enters a rebuilding phase.

“We should be pretty competitive on the women’s side,” Malloy said. “We lost senior Angela Canale, but we have Kaartinen, Smith, China Davis, Ashley Lowe and Hanna Cook back. Heidi (Kaartinen) should be an all-conference contender. Also, we’re bringing in two talented new women, Leah Jostes, a Floridian, and Zennah Jepchumba from Kenya in Africa. Both are true freshmen."

Seniors Kayce Martin and Shane Shelton will anchor the men’s squad. “That’s a work in progress,” Coach Malloy said. “We’re definitely in a rebuilding phase with the men."

“Overall, we have a lot of talent,” Malloy concluded. “If everybody stays healthy, we could have a top ten team in our region this year. But, there are definite question marks. It will be a week to week thing.”

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