"Joplin or bust" is mantra for MOC men's, women's cross country teams
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 31, 2012 1:48 PM
Joplin or bust is the mantra of the Mount Olive College men's cross country team this season. This time they hope to have some company.
The Trojan men's and women's squads carry their No. 1 Southeast Region ranking among Division II teams into today's lone home meet against Conference Carolinas rival Barton. It's the first of just four regular-season outings that will hopefully prepare MOC for another magical postseason run -- team-wise and individually.
The men return just one all-Southeast Region performer, Ronnie Sturgill, who helped lead the Trojans to the NCAA Division II championships for the second time in program history a year ago. This year's national finals are in Joplin, Missouri.
Joining Sturgill are returnees Erasmo Ordonez, Jamar Davis, Cameron Turner, Jordan Willett, Mike Cherry and Nick Springston. Davis and Ordonez each set a personal-best time last season.
"We lost James Maloney, Dalton Souza and Paul Hoffman from the top five," fourth-year MOC head coach Matt van Lierop said. "We needed to replace them, and I feel that we have. The six new freshmen are the most-talented group of runners I have ever recruited into a cross country program.
"They should be able to improve upon what this team has already accomplished in the past."
Cirilo Perez, an outstanding distance runner who starred at South Johnston, spearheads the new recruits. van Lierop also brought in Dylan Lafond, Akiharu Kitagawa, Mike Munoz, Stephen Greco and Sean Brown.
The Trojans earned two first-place votes in the 2012 Conference Carolinas preseason coaches poll and are picked to finish third in the 11-team league. MOC won its lone league championship in 2001.
"We are planning on a repeat of last year for the men, and we hope to see the women join them on the trip to Joplin" van Lierop said.
Junior Chelsea Long, who competed in last year's NCAA Division II championship meet, has rewritten the school record books during her career. The Eugene, Oregon, native holds the top four times in program history, including a personal-best 18-minute, 26-second effort at the 2011 Conference Carolinas championship event.
Returning to run with Long are two all-Southeast Region performers -- junior Amber Thompson and junior Terri Lynn Bluebird. The trio helped MOC record its best-ever team finishes in the conference and Southeast Regional meets last season.
van Lierop signed three freshmen -- Emily Shaw, Ashley Jansen and Karina Ordonez. Tabbed "promising newcomers," they should help the Trojans defend their preseason No. 1 ranking in the Conference Carolinas poll.
"We have tons of talent and potential in the newcomers," van Lierop said. "These are the best teams Mount Olive cross country has ever had. I feel like the cross country program is finally a family.
"The problems have weeded themselves out, and we are left with a group of kids who want to study, train and enjoy the experience with their teammates."
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