Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Returns Experienced Teams in 2009

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Many cross country programs around the country would be thrilled to finish in the top 15 nationally two years in a row. Yet, with a strong core of fifth-year runners returning to the Hilltop with one final year of eligibility, the Georgetown men’s cross country team is anything but content, as it looks to improve upon its recent success this season.

While finishing 14th at the NCAA championships in 2008 and 10th in 2009, the Hoyas were one or two solid individual races away from walking away with a much higher team finish. This year, with nearly all of their runners returning, the Blue and Gray hope to find themselves coming home from nationals fully satisfied.

“Individuals have come home [from nationals] happy, but the team hasn’t really come home pumped about how things went,” redshirt senior Levi Miller said. “Approaching it this year, we are more experienced than we’ve ever been. This is our last year, why shouldn’t we be able to put it together? We’re going to step up this year. It’s something to really be excited about and go through the season with that goal in mind.”

“I think that we can be among the elite teams at the NCAA meet this year,” added Head Coach Pat Henner. “Where that will end up placing us? That’s hard to say.”

Leading the way for the men will be redshirt senior Andrew Bumbalough, a two-time cross country all-American who also enters this season as the defending 2009 Big East individual champion. “Bumbi,” as he is called by his teammates, enters his final year of eligibility at Georgetown looking to put the finishing touches on a storied collegiate career.

An important part of the Hoyas’ success this season will be ensuring that Bumbalough stays healthy. While struggling with injuries early in his career, he has stayed relatively healthy over the past two years, aside from a few aches and pains.

Having placed 13th at nationals a year ago, and with a number of those who finished higher having since graduated, he is looking forward to going out with a bang.

“I think that a top-five [individual] performance is definitely a possibility if I stay healthy,” he said.

Adding to the Hoyas’ strength up front is Miller, who had a strong cross country season a year ago, capping the season with an all-American performance at nationals, where he finished 35th. While he struggled through an injury-riddled track season in 2009, Miller hopes to return to his cross country form, which means that he and Bumbalough give the Hoyas two formidable low-scoring runners.

Looking to lead the Hoyas after Bumbalough and Miller are redshirt seniors Mike Krisch and Mike Banks. Both Banks and Krisch made big contributions to the team’s 2008 success, despite entering the season coming off of big injuries. This season, they figure to make an even greater impact after a solid summer of training.

Junior Ayalew Taye, who has had an up- and-down two seasons at Georgetown so far, could be a big factor in the Hoyas’ success. His 2008 Big East performance, during which he led the Hoyas and was the second Hoya to finish behind Bumbalough, was an example of the potential he brings to every race.

Georgetown will also get a boost this upcoming season from junior Sandy Roberts, who redshirted the cross country season a year ago to extend his eligibility.

Finally, redshirt senior Alex Mason, redshirt sophomores T.C. Lumbar and James Grimes and redshirt freshman Mark Dennin all have the potential to contribute to the Hoyas’ success in a big way this fall.

Freshman Andrew Springer, the nation’s top high school miler, leads one of the most talented incoming classes in recent memory. However, with the amount of talent and depth that the Hoyas have returning this fall, it appears most likely that Springer and his classmates will be redshirted in their inaugural seasons.

While the Hoyas kick off the season this Saturday at the James Madison Open Invitational, the first real test will come in early October when the team travels to the Wisconsin Inter-Regional Invitational. Having missed a key meet last year due to the norovirus outbreak on campus, the Hoyas are looking forward to facing quality competition before the Big East Championship.

Not to be overlooked is the Big East championship itself, which will be hosted this year by Marquette. The Hoyas are the defending champions, having dominated the conference last year when they placed six runners in the top 11.

Yet the Blue and Gray will not go unchallenged, as the Big East has improved substantially over the past year. Cory Thorne leads a re-loaded Louisville team that took first in 2007. Also figuring to be strong are Providence, Notre Dame, Villanova and Syracuse.

“I think the Big East is going to be a lot better this year,” Henner said. “We very well could be better than last year, but we’re going to have to be better this year to win it. The level of competition there has gone way up.”

From there the Hoyas will compete at the Mid-Atlantic Regional and then set their final sights on nationals at Terre Haute on Nov. 23.

Despite their talent, the Hoyas know that they will still have to perform.

“We have one of the best teams that Georgetown’s probably ever had on paper, so we just have to go out there and run to our capabilities,” Bumbalough said.

Prior to the 2008 campaign, the women’s cross country team lost standout Melissa Grelli as she elected to attend Oregon for grad school and her last year of eligibility. Consequently, Georgetown came into the NCAA national championship last November as little more than an afterthought, but shocked the field with a ninth-place finish. This year, with graduate student Liz Maloy out of eligibility, the Hoyas are again flying under the radar in a loaded conference and region, which suits this gritty group of Hoyas well, as they look to surprise once again.

“As long as we stay with the underdog attitude that we’ve had before, I really think that is going to propel us forward,” redshirt senior Natasha LaBeaud said. “Most people, again, tuck us away in the cabinet and don’t even think about us, which definitely works to our advantage because we just work harder.”

As Head Coach Chris Miltenberg is quick to point out, the Hoyas definitely will have to work harder to overcome a significant amount of challenges that have arisen already in the young season.

The team took a big blow earlier this month when senior standout Renee Tomlin went down with a stress fracture that has the potential to sideline her for the entirety of the cross country season.

Tomlin, who was the Hoyas’ fifth runner for most of the season a year ago, had a breakout season on the track in her junior year, and she is looking to make a big impact in 2009.

Furthermore, redshirt senior Avril Ogrodnick, another Hoya who had an outstanding track season and was being looked to as a contributor, is out at least initially with a hip-flexor injury.

Finally, the sophomore duo of Emily Infeld, who took a quick break from training due to racing track late into the summer, and Katie McCafferty, who is just now starting to feel like herself after falling ill in the spring, probably won’t be in peak racing shape until later in the season.

“I see all the pieces there for what could be an incredible team for the Big East, regionals, and NCAAs,” Miltenberg said. “A phenomenal team. But to be honest, the way the past seven days have started, it just shows that we have a lot of challenges in front of us that if we attack them as a team head on, we can be great by the last three meets when it matters.”

LaBeaud plays a big part in the Hoyas’ ability to take on that challenge, as she is their most consistent performer from a year ago and has returned to campus with no setbacks. Consistently finishing as the Hoyas’ number-two runner behind Maloy a year ago, LaBeaud has more than bounced back from a disappointing third year in which she battled health complications.

“Natasha has really become a leader to me over the past year,” Miltenberg said. “If I could think of one way to describe Natasha, I would say that she’s a rock. She’s always going to be ready to run at the top of her ability at any time.”

Following LaBeaud are redshirt senior Lise Ogrodnick and seniors Lauren Gregory, Kelsey Malmquist and Marcie Sobrinski, who will all have the opportunity early in the season to step up for the Hoyas. Ogrodnick will be key for the Hoyas, as she struggled with some injuries in 2008, but looks to bounce back in her final year.

Sophomore Lauren Borduin, who had a great freshman year on the track and looks to be developing much like Tomlin did early in her career, could be another name that the Hoyas come to rely on.

A very strong incoming freshman class headlined by star recruit Emily Jones will only add to the depth that the Hoyas will draw on to overcome their initial challenges.

“[Emily’s] got incredible natural ability, she’s incredibly tough and she’s willing to work really hard, so I think she’s somebody that can come in a help us right away,” Miltenberg said. “But I think that’s the case for all our freshmen.”

If the incoming class mimics the performances of Infeld and McCafferty from a year ago, the Hoyas should have no problem filling the gaps. Arguably the best sophomore tandem in the country, having finished as the second and fifth best true freshmen at nationals a year ago, Infeld and McCafferty are being counted on to be ready to go when the championship series comes around.

Like the rest of the team, Infeld is up to the challenge and looking forward to shocking people once more.

“We have so much depth that a lot of people don’t realize,” she said. “We’re just looking forward to it and looking forward to surprising people.”

As the season progresses, that depth will no doubt be called upon in a stacked Big East and Mid-Atlantic Region. For now, the Hoyas will look to step up to the challenges that this young season has already presented at the Navy Invitational this Saturday. “

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