NEW CONCORD — With the graduation of five runners from the one of Muskingum University most successful men’s cross country teams, this year will be a reloading job for Coach Jacob Gleason.
The Muskie men finished fifth in the Ohio Athletic Conference meet, but qualified for the regional meet finishing 10th there and just missing a spot in the national tournament.
For those efforts. the Muskingum staff was named the OAC Coaching Staff of the Year.
Both the fifth place finish in the OAC meet and the 10th place finish in the regional meet were the best finishes since the 1998 season.
However, gone are the heart and soul of that team — Tyler Smith (Maysville), Robert Alberts (Ridgewood) and three other Muskies.
“The OAC meet was not one of our best efforts,” Gleason admitted, “but we put it together at the regional and showed what we could do. The loss of the seniors will be more from a leadership role and we have to establish new leadership. That role will probably fall to senior, three-year letterman John Derov, however, juniors Ryan Dodd, Tim Fries and Nathan Peck are all in the mix.”
The three juniors are all two-year award winners and the other juniors on the roster include one-year monogram winners Matt Willie and Daniel Mullen (Cambridge). One other senior candidate is Tory Kelly who has run the past three years.
Sophomore candidates include Ryan Cunningham and Brandon Moore, while freshmen hopefuls are Adam Barber, Corey Dillon, James Glaze, Cody Habrun, Anthony Kall and Matthew Lundquist.
While Derov, Peck and Dodd are considered to be the top three runners, Gleason sees a whole bunch of guys vying for the fourth spot.
“The competition is good and that will make us good in the future,” he pointed out. “The competition was a strength last year and will be again this year.
This year’s Lady Muskies have the largest group (15) in some time, but will be a relatively young squad. The Lady Muskies had three individuals qualify for the regional meet a year ago.
Two of them — junior Claire Lieburn and sophomore Allison Healey (Barnesville) — return this year.
“We didn’t graduate anyone, but some decided not to run again,” Gleason pointed out. “We have a good group of freshmen that will challenge the upperclassmen. They are young, but talented and our team could be freshmen dominated.
“We will have the typical things from youth,” he added. “They will mess up at some point, but we have to learn from it and not make the same mistakes again. If we train hard, we will run hard.”
Gleason returns eight letterwinners on the women’s squad including the two-year veteran Lieburn. The other include juniors Tori Clark, Jami Durkee and Janelle Shaffer along with sophomores Heather Daniel, Healey, Denise Labis and Caroline Nagy.
“Lieburn and Durkee have been leaders for us,” Gleason said, “but some of the freshmen could be leaders as well. It will be exciting to see how competitive they will be. They are young but will develop and grow.”
The freshmen candidates include Josie Baum, Madison Emmert, Julie Fobes (Marietta), Hannah Gregory (John Glenn) and Kailee Thomas.
“Lieburn, Durkee and Nagy will be in the mix,” he said, “with Baum, Forbes and Thomas entering at some time. I just don’t know when yet.”
The Muskies hosted the annual Alumni meet today and open the season hosting Marietta and Bethany on Aug. 31.