With a strong core returning from Wittenberg men's and women's cross country teams that finished eighth and seventh in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), respectively, in 2007, third-year Head Coach Craig Penney hopes to continue the Tigers' climb up the league standings in 2008. If there is such a thing as strength in numbers in college cross country, the 2008 Wittenberg Tigers figure to be a force to be reckoned with.
The Tiger men return five of their top seven athletes to this year's squad, while the women bring back four runners who competed in the conference and NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional meet a year ago. Five seniors lead the charge on the men's side, starting with Gabe Savage (Lewisburg, Ohio/Tri-County North), consistently the team's top finisher in 2007, and Ben McCombs (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington).
A trio of returning sophomores - Kevin Frick (Columbus, Ohio/Grandview),Andrew Carter (Springboro, Ohio/Springboro) and Josh Courlas (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) - form a majority of the returning nucleus for the Tiger men. All three head into their second full collegiate season looking to build on modest success enjoyed in 2007. The top returning letterwinners will be pushed by eight new runners - including as many as five who ran times in high school that are competitive with Wittenberg's top returning runners - joining the program in 2008.
On the women's side, the top returning runners are seniors Katie McIlvain (East Liverpool, Ohio/East Liverpool) and Erin Hedrick (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee). McIlvain was the Tigers' top runner in two meets and among the team's top three in every meet in 2007. The duo has the task of leading a tremendously young team thanks to a large, promising recruiting class, which includes as many as eight runners with high school times competitive with the top Tigers of a year ago.
The Wittenberg youth movement will be bolstered by returning scorers Margot Nevin (Darien, Conn./Darien) and Christy Brinkhoff (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park), a pair of sophomores who held their own quite well in their first year of collegiate cross country. They are part of a men's and women's cross country program that numbers more than 40 runners, one of the largest totals in school history.
The 2008 schedule begins with the Meijer Flyer Invitational at the University of Dayton on Aug. 30 before the Tigers host their own Wittenberg Invitational at Springfield Masonic Home. The NCAC Championship Meet will take place at Oberlin College on Nov. 1 and the regional competition is scheduled for Nov. 15 at nearby Otterbein.