The race for the OVC Cross Country championship is on.
Both teams received a preseason ranking of second in the OVC, but each team differs in their pathway toward success.
The women’s team looks to find leadership without seniors. While on the men’s side, they look to divide leadership among five seniors.
“It’s a really interesting dynamic. We push each other really well. It’s a great atmosphere and training’s going really well because of it,” said senior David Everett. “I don’t think any of the five seniors are leaders, but at the same time we all contribute something.”
In addition to five seniors, the men’s team welcomes five impressive newcomers to their roster this year.
“We have the best recruiting class we’ve ever had, so it’s interesting to have five seniors that have this experience paired up with five freshmen that are really talented and can accomplish a lot in their time with Belmont,” said Everett.
This year, the Bruins face arguably their most difficult schedule to date as they compete all over the South against multiple top 25 teams.
The farthest they travel is to Stillwater, Okla. to race about fifteen nationally ranked teams, including Oklahoma State, whose preseason ranking was fifth in the nation.
“We don’t expect to be at that level, but it’s going to be good competition and we’re just looking forward to a good road trip where we get away and run against some of the best teams in the country. We’re hoping we have some guys who can mix it up with the top guys, and get some confidence. We’re young so we’re hoping to close the gap on them.” said coach Jeff Langdon.
The team hopes the tough schedule will help prepare them for the OVC championships.
“The more teams that we race against that are higher than us and better than us, the more it will prepare us to dominate at conference,” said sophomore Molly Foster.
Foster plans to step up and be a leader by pushing everyone in practice every single day. She said the way to win this year is not only to stay consistently solid throughout the year, but also continue to get better from the start. Foster sees the freshmen as being an important part of the team’s success.
“We have four very strong girls that are definitely going to make a difference on the team. Everybody’s already trying to prove themselves and work as hard as they can,” said Foster. “They just come to practice and they’re all really excited about it, so I know that they want it.”
“We definitely know what we want and we know what the team can do so we’re going to just like prove it to everyone and step up and trying to do the best we can to take one at conference,” said Foster.
Both Belmont teams earned second place at the OVC tournament last year behind tough competitor Eastern Kentucky and are picked to do the same this year.
Everett, who placed 14th in the OVC championships and received All-OVC Second Team honors, has high hopes for the future of the program even in his last year as a Bruin.
“I think as we begin to rebuild, we want to become a top five team. We want to put ourselves up there with the teams like Florida State, Georgia, Auburn. We want to be in the mix. We want to make a name for Belmont,” said Everett.
Coach Langdon agrees and even went as far to say he thinks the men’s team is on the verge of taking it to a national level.
The journey starts this Friday on their home course in Nashville, and they’re hoping to add something new to the race: fans.
“Fan support, even in our sport, is very important, so that’s why we’re kind of pushing it,” said Langdon.
Both teams are ready to race in front of a crowd and start the season off on a positive note. The race time is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday at Percy Warner Park.
Photo courtesy of Ben McKoewn/ Belmont Athletics