09/02/05 — Mount Olive cross country opens season Saturday

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Mount Olive cross country opens season Saturday

Published in Sports on September 2, 2005 1:59 PM

If you talk to Mount Olive College head men's and women's cross country coach Jennifer Lancaster or any of the returning runners, they might have the same message when it comes to the upcoming season: "I think we're going to surprise some people."

Mount Olive opens its 2005 men's and women's cross country campaigns Saturday as the Trojans travel to Buies Creek to compete in the Campbell University Invitational. Saturday's competition is the first of six regular season meets, leading up to the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference championship Oct. 21 at Anderson, S.C.

While the number of returning runners is small - one men's runner and two women's runners - the Trojans may have their strongest runners in years, thanks to a large recruiting class.

"We have seven new faces on the men's team and five newcomers on the women's team," said Lancaster, who is in her third year as head coach at Mount Olive. Lancaster ran cross country for the Trojans during her collegiate years.

On the men's side, the lone returnee is senior Tim Insley, a 2004 All-CVAC honorable mention and a graduate of Eastern Wayne High School. Insley placed 14th out of 78 runners at last year's CVAC Men's Cross Country Championship.

"Individually, I hope I can make all-conference again," said Insley, who was the Trojans' top finisher in every meet last year. "As a team, we're all pushing each other at practice and I think we'll do well this year."

"I expect Tim to do as well as he's done here in his first two years here," said Lancaster. "He'll be a leader on the team. He isn't necessarily vocal, but he has a good work ethic and he leads by example."

While Insley is the only returning runner, he isn't the only Trojan runner with collegiate experience. Junior Kevin Acree ran cross country at East Carolina for one season.

"It's good to have another runner with experience at the college level," said Lancaster.

The Trojans will also have four freshmen on the roster as Michael Corley, Corey Daub, Charles Easley and Kyle Lewis all try to be among the top five on the team.

"All of the freshmen have been doing well in practice and they've given the upperclassmen a run for the money," said Lancaster. "They have a desire to run and they'll motivate the team to take it to a higher level this season."

Lancaster also expects contributions from junior Aldo Barba and sophomore Gabriel Garcia, who are also members of the Trojan tennis team.

On the women's side, the Trojans return senior Becky Garrod and junior Tamika Goff. In their first year of collegiate cross country, Garrod was the Trojans' top finisher in six of seven regular season meets last year, while Goff was the Trojans' top finisher at the CVAC Women's Cross Country Championship and the NCAA Division II Regional.

"One of them was always our No. 1 runner in each meet last year and both of them improved as the season went on," said Lancaster. "They're displaying good leadership for the newcomers and letting them know what my expectations are."

Both Garrod and Goff say they feel more comfortable with one year of cross country under their belt.

"I feel more prepared this year," said Garrod, who will graduate in December. "I surprised myself with my results last year."

"I feel like I know what to expect this year," said Goff, a graduate of Spring Creek High School. "I understand the system better and I understand Coach's expectations of the team."

Newcomers include redshirt freshman Krystal Kee and true freshmen Ashley Baldridge, Mary Hare, Theresa Thompson and Obolety Yacob.

Mount Olive is picked 10th in the CVAC Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll and 11th in the women's poll. Despite the polls and the abundance of newcomers, optimism is high in the Trojan camp.

"I feel like we'll put Mount Olive cross country back on the map this year," said Goff. "I think we can catch people by surprise."