MOC - Cross Country
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 4, 2008 1:01 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- One year can make a difference.
And Mount Olive College men's and women's cross country coach Bill Hodge is thankful to have a full 365 days to recruit, prepare and practice for the 2008 season.
"I was hired about 15 minutes before this (preseason) banquet last year," joked Hodge. "I didn't even have time to get a shirt with the school logo on it."
Or time for anything else.
Hodge spent numerous hours going door to door in the student dorms.
"I tried to get bodies ... people to come out and run cross country who had little or no experience," said Hodge. "The difference this season, even though we are still a really young team, is that we recruited high school runners from all over the state which will give us a more competitive team."
Nine freshmen are on the men's team. Three freshmen and two sophomores comprise the women's team.
While youth leads to pessimism, Hodge prefers the opposite view.
"I never bought into that young or old stuff," said Hodge. "I have had young runners that were great right away, and I have seen old runners turn out to be losers. If your heart is in it and you are ready to work hard, you can be competitive."
Hodge has seen the competitive edge in the offseason, particularly from Cape Fear Community College transfer Melissa Moore.
"I want to thank the college for the opportunity to further my running career," said Moore. "I am happy to be a part of a team within a Christian college, and I am looking forward to the upcoming season."
Hodge admitted that Mount Olive's historic campus and Christian background made recruiting capable runners, like Moore, a relatively easy task.
"This campus sells itself, there's no doubt about it," said Hodge. "Kids come for their unofficial visit and they spend the day here, and they see what we are all about. It usually doesn't take a lot of convincing.
"But the scholarship money doesn't hurt either," the quick-witted New Jersey native added.
With multiple-scholarship athletes taking to the course this fall, the mentality of the program seems to be shifting away from last season's "just happy to be here" attitude.
"We aren't just going to show up at meets this year and run," said Hodge. "We are going to show up with new goals and we are going to surprise some people."
In the annual Conference Carolinas preseason poll, the men's cross country team was picked to finish 10th, while the women were tabbed to finish 11th.
Mount Olive opens the season Saturday at the UNC Pembroke Invitational.
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