The Wittenberg University men's and women's cross country teams head into the 2006 season with a new coach and an optimistic outlook. Led by head coach Craig Penney, one of the largest squads in recent history for both the men and women raises hopes for a much improved season, which opens Sept. 2 at Wabash College.
On the women's side, the team has great depth and talent with almost all 2005 letterwinners returning. These letterwinners are joined this year by an outstanding freshman class and several other runners who are new to the team but have great potential.
Key returning letterwinners include sophomores Abby McCutcheon (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster) and Jessica Rizzo (Benningtor, Ind./South Dearborn), juniorsMary Beth Lintz (Englewood, Ohio/Northmont) and Alissa Goble (Sunfield, Mich./Lakewood), and seniors Meredith Deitsch (Edgerton, Ohio/Edgerton),Christine Maddox (Miamisburg, Ohio/Miamisburg) and Sarah Yehle (West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette). Lintz and Goble have been among the top Tiger runners each of the last two seasons, posting times of 21:19 and 21:30 respectively for the 5000 meter run (5k). McCutcheon was also among the Tigers' top finishers throughout her first collegiate season, including a team-best time of 20:33.95 at the Roanoke Invitational. Rizzo also placed among the top 80 in the All-Ohio Championships in 2005.
The Tigers will have to find someone to fill sophomore Erin Hedrick's (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) spot in 2006 as she will miss the entire season with an injury. Along with Hedrick, the team's MVP a year ago, senior Jessica McClish (Shelby, Ohio/Shelby) will not return to the team for her senior season due to study abroad commitments during the fall semester.
A solid freshman class enters the program in 2006, including accomplished high school runners Lauren Woodard (Wadsworth, Ohio/Wadsworth), Janelle Mahowald (Parma, Ohio/Holy Name), Jennifer Knapp (Stow, Ohio/Stow-Munroe Falls) and Ali Brown (Chillicothe, Ohio/Zane Trace). In addition, the Tigers have added junior Megan Poling (Medina, Ohio/Highland), a former member of the club rugby team, and Katie McIlvain (East Liverpool, Ohio/East Liverpool), who earned a varsity letter with the women's soccer team in 2005.
The men's team returns six veteran runners. Junior Mike Echols (Springfield, Ohio/North) is the team's top returner after leading the Tigers in every race his first two seasons in the Red & White. During the 2005 season Echols topped the men with a 40th-place finish in the North Coast Athletic Conference meet, and he posted a personal-best time of 26:59.6 at the regional championship. Echols will be joined on the course again this year by junior returning letterwinners Mike Wismer (Avon, Ohio/Avon), Shawn Hils (Hiram, Ohio/Crestwood) and Jon Dewald (Mansfield, Ohio/Senior). In addition, sophomores Gabe Savage (Lewisburg, Ohio/Tri-County North) is a returning letterwinner, and sophomore Mike Phillips (Dover, Ohio/Dover) is running well with a year of collegiate experience under his belt.
Several other new runners, including four talented freshmen, have joined the men's team. All are contending for spots in the team's top seven runners. Among the top newcomers are sophomore Benjamin McCombs (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) and freshmen Nicholas Del Grosso (Marysville, Ohio/Marysville) and Michael Lamar (Bexley, Ohio/Bexley).