Cavaliers Look to Advance to NCAA Championships
Aug. 23, 2002
The Virginia’s men’s cross country team looks to capitalize on its growth from last year and continue its development towards a berth at the NCAA National Championships, a goal coach Jason Dunn and his team have set for this 2002 cross country season. For a team that missed travelling to the NCAA meet last year by one spot, it’s a goal that is highly attainable, especially with the return of the Cavaliers’ individual NCAA qualifier and four athletes that ran in the NCAA Southeast Regional meet in 2002. “A goal of mine for this team since I arrived at Virginia has been to advance to nationals,” says Dunn. “We’ve been really close and I think this group is one that can get us to that achievement.”
With NCAA qualifier Walton Kingsbery coming off a great summer, the Hoos look to him to assume the mantle of the front runner. Kingsbery has improved his standing at the regional meet in both years of competition and now as a third-year he is looking to have his teammates join him at the national championships.
Matt Ruhl, who is competing this season as a graduate student, is a returning All-ACC performer both in cross country and on the track. Fully recovered from injuries sustained at the end of the 2001 cross country season, Ruhl has enjoyed a great summer of training and will provide Kingsbery with a solid training partner. Andy Filachek, a third-year classmate of Kingsbery’s, was Virginia’s second runner at ACC’s in 2001 and looks to capitalize on a good spring track campaign to develop his cross country further. Tom Ellis is a solid, blue-collar athlete who has worked really hard in developing his cross country abilities and will be counted on to be a veteran presence in the top-five for the Cavaliers.
Will Christian had a very successful first-year campaign and Dunn is looking for him to continue to break through on the cross country course. “If Will can make the same kind of improvement between his first and second year that Walton did, then he should be at the front of the group,” says Dunn. Christian was Virginia’s fifth man at the NCAA Regional meet in 2001. Three veterans who had a solid summer and will be counted on for the 2002 season are David Glynn, James Catano, and James Atchison.
The Cavaliers also welcome a talented group of first-years, the core of whom are from Virginia, who could make an immediate impact on the team. John Piersol, Mike Lyng, Matt Gutridge and Kevin McHale are all in-state performers who should challenge for spots on the squad. “I’m really excited about this group of incoming athletes,” says Dunn. “It’s a great testament to this program to get the in-state talent.” One of those incoming first-years, John Piersol, ran a 9:05 3200 last season and Dunn looks for him to step up his first year. Piersol and his teammates will be able to develop quickly in a program that “has the best team chemistry that I’ve seen since my arrival,” according to Dunn. “I’m really impressed with the camaraderie of the team and that chemistry will be one of our strengths this year.”
The Virginia women took huge strides towards their return to prominence with a ninth-place finish at last year’s NCAA national championships. After a fantastic regular-season meet that saw the Cavaliers upset seven top-25 team and earn the program’s first top-20 ranking since 1992, Virginia continued to improve on that all season, culminating with the Hoos’ top finish at the national meet since the national championship year of 1982.
While front-runners Jen Owens and Sarah Folse have departed due to graduation, the core depth of the team returns for coach Jason Dunn. “Our strength all last season was our depth,” says Dunn, “and we get it all back. We are looking for someone to step up as a first runner, but it’s nice to have the depth that we have as a team.”
One of those veterans who should step up is school record holder Dawn Cleary. Cleary, who was Virginia’s third runner most of the season last year, smashed the school record in the steeplechase in 2002 and was a qualifier for NCAAs in that event. She had a great 2002 track season which will provide an excellent springboard into the 2002 cross country season.
Cleary’s teammate Melanie Mathews was also an NCAA qualifier in 2002, running at nationals in the steeple along with Cleary. Mathews, who also qualified provisionally nationally in the 5000m, did not factor much in the 2001 cross country season but with her solid spring, she will be counted upon to make an impact this year in cross country.
Jolene Hampson was an impressive presence early in last year’s cross county campaign before injuries slowed her down. She has fully recovered and had a solid summer of training, setting her up for a full season in 2002 on the trails. Ellen Dwyer has also enjoyed an injury-free year and looks to improve on her fifth-position on the team at last year’s national meet.
Meg McGarvey has improved steadily during her first two years at Virginia, becoming an All-Regional perfomer as a second-year after just missing that accolade as a first-year. Virginia’s fourth runner at NCAA’s, McGarvey has had a great spring and summer and will be counted upon to bolster the Virginia corps.
Jane Maxwell, who was the 2002 ECAC Champion at 10,000m, also returns for the Cavaliers and will be a part of the impressive Virginia depth in cross country. She will be joined by Sharon O’Connor, who qualified for the mile run at the NCAA Indoor Championships after hovering around the seventh position on last year’s cross country squad in her first competitive cross country season.
The Cavaliers welcome a strong group of newcomers for the 2002 season, and a pair of those newcomers could make an immediate impact for Dunn’s Cavaliers. One of those is Kara Scanlin, a two-time Footlocker finalist and a high-school All-American from Florida. “Kara has the ability to be really good and be in our top group,” predicts Dunn. Her classmate, Emily Hampson, the younger sister of Jolene, will also look to play an immediate role on the women’s team.
“We open at home on the 14th [of September] and we are looking first at the Great American XC Festival,” says Dunn. “It will be a great test against a strong national field.” The Cavaliers hope it is just one step as they look to return to nationals for a second consecutive year.
2002 CROSS COUNTRY SCHEDULE
Sep. 14 Lou Onesty Invitational Charlottesville, Va.
Sep. 27 Great American XC Festival Charlotte, N.C.
Sep. 28 George Washington Invite Manassas, Va.
Oct. 5 George Mason Invitational Manassas, Va.
Oct. 19 Pre-NCAA Meet Terre Haute, Ind.
Tribe Open Williamsburg, Va.
Nov. 2 ACC Championships Atlanta, Ga.
Nov. 9 Cavalier Open Charlottesville, Va.
Nov. 16 NCAA Regional Champs Greenville, N.C.
Nov. 25 NCAA Championships Terre Haute, Ind.