Head Coach Jenny Severns said she’s been pleasantly surprised at the attitude and mentality of the cross country team coming back from Summer Break.
“For the most part, people came in really fit and I think the returners came in a lot more motivated than they have in the past,” Severns said. “I think we’re in a really good position to do big things this year. It’s just going to be about making the right decisions between now and OVC.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams hope to improve upon last year’s season.
“On the guys’ side, we have eight guys and all eight can contribute, be any position on any given day,” Severns said. “It’s nice not to have too much pressure on one particular person. On the women’s side, we have a very strong group up front right now but there are some people on their heels that I would hope by the end of the season would be right up there with them. I think we should have about seven or eight on the girls’ side as well.”
The strong leadership on the women’s team is fronted by junior Emma Gilmore and redshirt sophomore Alicyn Hester.
“Allie Hester had a huge summer and I think that this will be a breakout year for her,” Severns said. “Emma had a really good summer as well, the best she’s ever had. She always gets it done when it counts. I think her season will start rolling sooner than it ever has. She’ll be ready to get after it right away.”
Gilmore, an All-OVC second team selection a year ago, is heading into her junior campaign as a Racer.
With two years of competition under her belt, she is considered the seasoned veteran on the women’s squad.
“I think we can be a much bigger force and have a much bigger impact on the OVC as a whole this season,” Gilmore said. “We fell kind of short of what I truly believe we could have accomplished last year. I don’t believe we had the depth in the team like we do this year.”
Severns hauled in a new recruiting class headlined by Meagan Smith, a freshman from Danville, Ky., and Felizitas Muller, a sophomore from Rastatt, Germany.
Gilmore, an international student from Locks Heath, England, knows the stresses of being a first year athlete in a new environment. According to her, however, these newcomers are making the transition quite easy.
“When I came in it was a huge change as a freshman,” Gilmore said. “I think what’s lovely at the moment is that we have a really great vibe on the team and I think all of the upperclassmen are getting along with the freshmen and being there for them in any way that they can. I think the connections are helping the freshmen feel a lot more at ease.”
The Racers will get their first test of the season today as they compete in the Belmont Opener. Severns is anxious to see how her team will perform against familiar competition such as Belmont and Lipscomb, but her main focus is on her team’s ability to shake off the pent up anxiety and perform, she said.
“The biggest thing for them is to bust the rust off and find their wheels again and to remember what it feels like to run,” Severns said.
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer