SEASON PREVIEW: All-American Turned Coach Looking For New Heights

(photo by Hannah Chappell-Dick)
(photo by Hannah Chappell-Dick)

After a decorated career at Eastern Mennonite, Hannah Chappell-Dick returns to her alma mater as Interim Coach. With a fresh training philosophy and competitive runners, EMU men's and women's cross country is expected to be stronger in the 2017 season.

The women return six of their seven top finishers, saying farewell to only one senior. In 2016, many different runners took a turn at the front of the pack for EMU. Kat Lehman (Dover, Ohio/ Dover), top returner by time is joined by Megan Good (Harrisonburg, Va./ Eastern Mennonite), top finisher at ODAC's, Laurie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./ Harrisonburg), top finisher at Regionals, and Elizabeth Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/ Bluffton), who was also consistently in that top-five.

Senior Michaela Mast (Broadway, Va./Eastern Mennonite) will join the team, and despite being new to collegiate running, is expected to make an immediate impact.

 "I anticipate that the women will be stronger in 2017 than they were in 2016," explained Chappell-Dick. "Our 1-5 split of 48 seconds at the ODAC Championships last year was half the size of any other teams' split, which indicates that we will see success when it counts: at the championships meet."

Chappell-Dick hopes to build on last year's finish.

 "The Washington & Lee women are very strong this year, but EMU is one of four teams contending for the runner-up trophy at ODAC's," she said. "We will aim to improve upon our 2016 3rd place finish at conference, and then set our sights on the fierce competition at Regionals."

EMU's men took a hit in their roster this year, graduating last year's top runners, including Alec Thibodeux, who was an All-Region runner and National Qualifier in his career. However, sophomores Calin Boeckman (Staunton, Va./ Fort Defiance), and Collin Longenecker (Harrisonburg, Va./ Turner Ashby) and junior Derrick Chirinos (Harrisonburg, VA/ Harrisonburg) will try their hand at Varsity running this year.

Top returning sophomore Diego Avila (Harrisonburg, Va./ Harrisonburg) will be looking to improve upon his 66th finish at the ODAC Championship. Also joining the men in his first year is Justice Allen (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro).

"This will be a developmental year for the men's team. Our goals will be strength development and injury prevention as these athletes adjust to the demands of Varsity training," said Chappell-Dick. The men's team is young and will look to stay healthy, gain strength and finish a completing team at the regional meet.

As a five-time All-American for the Royals and her experience training with the Atlanta Track Club Elite, Hannah brings plenty of running experience to the 2017 cross country team. Now on the other side of competing, her first season as a coach will bring about tweaks to the EMU program.

"The season has been divided into four phases, each with a different primary and secondary emphasis. Because our team is young, we will focus on gradual transitions to higher mileage and higher quality work. We will also be spending significant time strengthening stabilizing muscles to ward off injury," she commented.

Describing more about her experience as a former athlete and new coaching philosophy she states, "Coaching Cross Country is, at its core, about creating community, motivating, and developing trust. If athletes and coaches respect and trust each other, good things happen."

 "There is so much energy and hope surrounding our teams. Many of my athletes have referred to their teammates as family and these relationships will grow and strength as the season progresses," Chappell-Dick comments on the overall feeling of the 2017 season.

In previous years the program has competed in the ODAC Preview to start out the season. Instead this year, the team will open the season by heading south to Black Mountain at the Hyder-McMahill Invitational. The event is put on by former EMU cross country and track & field coaches Jason Lewkowicz Britten Olinger, who are now at Montreat College. The Royals will kick off the season at the invitational on Sept. 2.

Looking ahead for the men and women, ODAC Championships will be hosted by Va. Wesleyan University on Oct. 28. Regional Championships, hosted by CNU, will be in Newport News on Nov. 11. And finally to close out the season, Principia will host the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 18.

To see the full 2017 EMU Cross Country schedule, click here.