It takes time for young collegiate athletes to find their footing in new programs. Slippery Rock Cross Country is a young team this year. Head Coach Bill Jordan is making sure the transition is smooth as the season gets going.
There are 10 freshmen in the cross-country program right now, five men and five women. Jordan made sure to note how important Assistant and Distance Coach Bobby Over has been to their development.
“The new group of athletes we have, the five of them on both sides, have really taken to training well under Coach Over,” Jordan said. “The chemistry is great.”
Not only has the team been meshing well, but the performance has also been there through pre-season training.
“Some of our freshmen have started to develop really well,” Jordan said. “They’re all great workers and they’re all very solid athletes who have the ability to compete well at our level here in the conference.”
Young talent taking well to coaching and showing improvement is a great sign in any sport. Athletes enjoying their development is a great sign they’ll stick with it and keep working hard.
“I think it bodes really well for the future of the program,” Jordan said. “If you’re having fun while you’re training, it’s a lot more enjoyable and you get a lot more out of it.”
As for the first meet, The Rock had both young athletes and program veterans showing out. The Rock women had three in the top-15 as sophomore Ruthie Hughes joined juniors Katie Plassio and Anna Igims.
Igims finished the highest of any SRU athlete at sixth.
“Ruthie is really coming on this year; her summer training was awesome. She could be one of the better athletes in the entire conference,” Jordan said.
Seniors Troy Hart and Ethan Brentham, as well as junior Devon Navaroli finished top 30 in the men’s race.
“It’s one of those things, if we just keep bringing in one or two kids each year that can step up and run at that level, we’re gonna be pretty good every year,” Jordan said.
Of course, it’s just the start of the season and there is plenty of time for other athletes to make their names known and help The Rock place highly at upcoming competitions. The Panther Opener was a 5K, SRU cross country will be running further than that often in the upcoming months.
“As we get in here to Robert Morris and start feeling the real distance at 6K and 8K, it’s gonna be a better showing of where we’re at,” Jordan said.
Jordan was referring to their upcoming Robert Morris Colonial Invitational. The invitational will take place on September 16 and the XC team will run at Youthtowne Fields in Clinton, Pa. Jordan is as excited as anyone to see the returns of The White and Green’s training this weekend.
“[Coach Over] has done a great job at preparing the kids to compete and he has really helped develop a running culture here at The Rock. And more or less carry on Coach Papa’s running culture here at The Rock,” Jordan said. “I’m really proud of Coach Over and all our athletes and I think they’ll have a huge upswing this year.”
Running further distances should help Jordan and Over see the full extent of their progress. The goal is clear though; to be standing with the PSAC elites when it’s all said and done.
“We’re trying to go and compete at the highest level of the conference,” Jordan said.