SEASON PREVIEW: Running Into Year Two

Justice Allen developed into a leader last year for the Royals. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Justice Allen developed into a leader last year for the Royals. (photo by Scott Eyre)

EMU's cross country program is ready to take the next step under Head Coach Bob Hepler and Associate Coach Erick Camodeca as they look forward to their second year leading the Royals.

Now with a full year of training in Hepler and Camodeca's system, the EMU runners expect to make a big move in 2019.

Hepler is also reintroducing cross country to the EMU campus, hosting a meet on college property for the first time in 17 years.

ODAC Finish in 2018: Men – 6th (176 points); Women – 5th (117 points)
Coach: Bob Hepler (2nd season) – Hepler's first season exceeded preseason conference expectations as the men finished two spots ahead of where they were picked and the women earned two honorees to the All-ODAC Second Team.

Season opener in 2019:
- at Bridgewater XC Challenge at Bridgewater College on Friday, Aug. 30
Other season highlights:
- host EMU Mennonite Heritage Cross Country Invitational, on Friday, Sept. 6, also Rowdy Royals Meet
- at Gettysburg Invitational in Gettysburg, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 19
- at ODAC Championships in Salem, Va., (hosted by Roanoke College) on Saturday, Nov. 2

Interview

SID: How would you recap 2018 in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your teams for this fall?

BH: Both teams exceeded my expectations at the ODAC Championships.  Based on the first day of practice I honestly thought that this would be the worst group of runners who I have ever coached.  They came in out of shape, but worked hard and proved me wrong.

I hope that we are creating a culture where each athlete completes a solid summer of training.  That's really the key to distance running.  If you start the XC season out of shape, you'll spend the season just getting in shape for track.

Were there any key losses from last year's team (graduation or otherwise)?

MEN --- Derrick Chirinos, Ivan Harris

WOMEN --- Laurie Serrell, Kellie Serrell

SID: Who are some top returners we can expect to hear about this year?

BH: MEN --- Justice Allen, Isaac Alderfer, Isaac Andreas, Charles Thornton and Collin Longenecker

WOMEN --- Abigail Shelly, Elizabeth Nisly, Emma Hoover and Megan Good

SID: Who are some of the key newcomers this year?

BH: MEN ---We have 11 new guys so it could be any of them.  Nathan Yoder is from Pennsylvania, so he must be fast.

WOMEN --- Elizabeth Miller and Savannah Bontrager should be good by the end of October.

SID: Your men's roster size is buoyed by a large freshman class from last year. What are your thoughts on the men's team as a whole?

BH: I'll be able to tell you after the first day of practice when the guys do their fitness test of 10 x 1 mile repeats at 6' 30" with a 30" rest.  It's not fast, but it tells me if they ran this summer or were lazy.  The team has the talent to get third so my prediction is that they'll get fifth in the ODAC.

SID: The women lost a key All-ODAC senior in Laurie Serrell, but bring back a talented group of seniors.  What are your thoughts on the women's team as a whole?

BH: I'll be able to tell you after the first day of practice when the women do their fitness test of 10 x 1000 meter repeats.  They will run those at a 7" per mile pace.  Not fast, but it tells me if they ran this summer or were lazy.  The team has the talent to get third so my prediction is that the women will get fourth in the ODAC.

SID: What are some goals for the team this year?

BH: MEN --- 3+ men under 27' for 8K

WOMEN --- 5+ women under 25' for 6K

SID: What does it mean to you to be able to host a cross country meet on campus for the first time since 2002?

BH: It will be incredibly fun to be able to have the team run in front of throngs of friends, family, classmates, EMU staff and faculty on campus.  It will be interesting to see how the campus reacts to our tribute to Mennonite culture.

SID: What is something you will be specifically watching or working on this preseason?

BH: That first day of practice will tell us everything.  If you see me smiling after practice come and get a rare hug from me...I hate physical contact.  If I'm not smiling, please stay away.

SID: Overall general feeling of what 2019 will be for your team?

BH: This "feeling" that you speak of….that is for the weak.  Seriously, I expect to be disappointed the first day then have a blast all year with a great group of people.