MOBILE, Ala. (September 9, 2021) – After a year’s layoff due to the Novel Coronavirus Global Pandemic, the Spring Hill College (SHC) men and women’s cross country teams are ready to return to the courses. Head Coach Craig McVey admits that there will be rust to knock off. “Missing a year affected our entire country and world, so of course, it affected us, too. We trained relatively well given the circumstances, but when you know a conference meet is on the horizon, it’s different. It has to be.”
McVey likes what he has seen out of his runners in the early stages. “Preseason camp has been great,” he says. “Our women and men get it. They know what we expect to do. Our returning people know the standard that we expect and our new people get it, too. “Everyone is excited to set a new standard of where we want to be as a program.”
“We had a solid year of training last year,” McVey continues. “Having a track season in the spring helped, but to race great cross country you have got to run cross country races.”
Recognizing the youth of his squads, McVey admits to taking a different tact with his coaching. “Some years with a more experienced squad, you would focus a bit differently, but this fall with coming off just a one-race mini-season in February and with so many freshmen, I have to use similar teaching concepts as always, but at different levels.”
With his women’s team being the two-time defending SIAC Champions and his men taking SIAC Runner-Up in 2019, McVey knows that his teams are no longer the unknowns of the conference. “Being the hunted is actually ok,” he says. “It actually keeps everyone in the saddle every day. They all know that if we do what we do, the way we can do it, then we will have a great shot in our conference meet and in the NCAA Regional. That’s all we can ask for – to be in it. We won’t race looking over our shoulders, but we’ll race the way we need to race by knowing our best will have been left out there in every single meet.
When it comes to his individual runners, McVey plays his cards close to his vest. “I can’t name names because week-in-and-week-out we’re going to have great surprises in performance on each squad. Everyone on our roster knows that we need them at their best and striving for the season we know they can have. Obviously, those returning on both squads from our last full season in 2019 will have major impacts for us again, but we also have three freshmen women and a transfer along with three freshmen men. That gives us more depth than we’ve ever had, so we will be able to ‘team run’ [in groups] for really the first time since I’ve been here.”
On the men’s side, veteran competitors Brian Pempel, Will Tate, Aaron Foster, and TJ Gennari will team with first-year runners Kyle Capo, Ridge Chautin, Myles Cook, Curtis Laurent, Thomas Monier, and Harrison Weisinger.
For the women, returners Marley Bright, Katie Collura, Cat Dulle, Olivia Freeman, Madeline Knightly, Shelby Noble, Mary Elizabeth Shelton, Meredith Tuttle, and Caroline Weisinger look forward to defending their SIAC crowns. Newcomers Ava Courtney, Cassidy Dilks, Grace Forbes, Fae Fox, Jordan Jernigan, Victoria Morera, and Claire Morgan look to continue the era of Badgers championships well into the future.
McVey knows the obstacles in front of his runners, but his confidence is apparent. “In October, it will be two years since we raced for a conference title, so we’re focusing now on how we do things, how we think, and shaking off the dust and rust to race at the level we know we can reach. Each day we honestly review what we do and if we are at the level that we need to be. We are helping the new faces get it for the first time.
“Everyone is just excited for the opportunity to train together at last and to do something really special,” he summarizes. “We are excited to have the opportunity to compete and for that we are grateful. One thing I know: With the two squads we have put together, they will race hard every inch of a race. They won’t concede one place or one point and when we’re done this fall, even with the pandemic continuing, there will have been more than a few “WOW” moments to look back on.”
Spring Hill will open the 2021 men & women’s cross country regular season at the Hawk 4k/5k Classic hosted by Huntingdon College in Grady, Ala. on Saturday.