The Slippery Rock University men’s cross-country team is looking forward to another season in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, joined by a few familiar faces.
The Rock will have a total of 14 runners, including nine upperclassmen and five incoming freshmen.
After losing three of their top runners, who included Morgan Elliot, Alex Koksal and Michael Beegle, all of whom graduated this past spring.
The men are anxious to fill those top spots. Seniors Jaron Martin, Connor MacKelvey and Theo Reynolds are entering the season with not only years of experience behind them, but also a summer-full of dedication and hard work.
“Being co-captain alongside Jaron Martin this season will surely put our leadership skills to the test,” MacKelvey said.
Senior Tyler Melius will also be joining the squad this fall to round out the four seniors competing for the Green and White.
Melius was the top 800 meter runner at the Rock this past spring and is looking forward to getting off the track and competing in his first ever cross-country season.
Joining these four men are juniors Charlie Frank, Ryan Thompson and Steve Green. Rounding out the last of the returners are sophomores Ryan McGuire and Tyler Palenchak.
With exceptional cross-country seasons behind them at the Rock, they are eager to step it up this season to become a competitive squad.
Jeff Henderson, Jeremy Parsons, Devin VanGuilder, Evan Zombek and Steve Zombek will join the upperclassmen for their first season as Rock runners.
The Preseason Coaches Poll voted SRU to finish fifth in the PSAC meet this fall.
Head coach John Papa says that he’s excited to be ranked so highly in the conference, but that he is sure the team can move up a spot or two.
The role as the team’s top runner is still up in the air, because last season the top five runners were all fairly equal in finishing times.
“Our goal every season is to win the conference meet and place among the top teams at our Atlantic Regional meet to qualify for Nationals,” Papa said. “With a great summer of training behind our men and the desire to compete, I think that our men will have a great season.”
Papa also said that he’s looking for a significant contribution from the entire team and sees true potential in them.
MacKelvey said that being ranked fifth means nothing.
“With the caliber of our freshmen and returning squad, I know we are going to surprise the conference this year,” MacKelvey said.
The season kicks off on Sept. 12 for the special SRU 125 Anniversary Invitational.
The Rock is looking forward to hosting the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Atlantic Regional Meet on Nov. 22 at their home course at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Last season they took fifth place.
SRU will travel to Salisbury, Maryland to compete in the Don Cathcart Invitational on Sept. 27.
They will then host the Mack Cooper College/High School Invitational at Cooper’s Lake Campground.
Last season the Rock took second place at Mack Cooper Invitational, and took first place in the SRU Invitational.