|Wooster's men's team is well-positioned to vie for an improved spot in the highly competitive NCAC.|
Led by a talented group of seasoned veterans, longtime head coach Dennis Rice is optimistic his 2017 squad can challenge for an improved spot in the North Coast Athletic Conference standings after a sixth-place showing a year ago.
"We're really excited about the opportunity that this team has," commented Rice. "I thought we finished well last season, especially only having a :47 gap between our No. 1 and No. 5 runners. The key to our overall team success is for the team to develop together once they come in for the preseason. We have to set the team concept from day one that we're going to train, work together, and progress as a team as we go through the season. This all starts from each and every training session. If we can work together as a team and stay healthy, this team shows great potential, and it should be a great season for us."
Senior captains Geoffrey Carney-Knisely and Kent Nakamoto will lead the way and provide great role models for the rest of the team to look up to. Both possess a wealth of big-meet experience at the conference level, and have stellar credentials on and off the course, headlined by Carney-Knisely's Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America® honor this past season.
"Geoffrey is awesome," summed up Rice. "He has the great balance we're looking for with the academics and the running. He's well respected by the team and really sets the tone. Geoffrey's a workhorse and works really hard in the classroom, obviously with the great success he's had in there. He's a very committed team guy for cross country who is willing to put the work in to be successful.
"We're really excited about Kent," continued Rice. He's another outstanding leader, who is respected by the team. He's very determined to reach his true potential. Kent's another great student who balances out his academics with his running. He's committed to putting the workload in and leading the team in a positive way as a team captain."
Wooster's deeply talented junior class looks to carry over a high level of success from the track and field conference championships over to the cross country course. Brian Lief headlines the group as an all-conference honoree via the winning time in the 800 meters at the most recent outdoor NCAC meet. Lief does have a track record of success when healthy on the cross country course, evidenced by ranking third on the team at the NCAC Championships as a first-year, and he was the second Scot harrier to cross the finish at last year's All-Ohio Championships.
"Brian is a big-meet performer and thrives on the championship meets," commented Rice. "I'm confident he's excited about the upcoming season, especially with the way track and field concluded last season with his conference championship in the 800 meters."
Sticking with the juniors, Jackson Feinknopf really emerged as a consistent top-seven runner, and in fact, was the third Scot to cross the finish at the Great Lakes Regional Championships with a time of 26:44. Classmates Cullen King and Simon Weyer could factor into the mix for spots on the conference team as could David Westcott, who missed last season due to an injury.
Rising sophomores Aedan Pettit and Miki Rae made a big impact with the team last year, especially Pettit, who was the Scots' No. 5 runner at both the NCAC and Great Lakes Regional Championships. Rae earned a spot on the conference team, and while not scoring in track and field, did deliver several strong performances at the conference championships.
Other non-letterwinners and first-years could also potentially play a prominent role for the team in 2017.
Wooster will host two meets this season, including its season lid-lifter on Sept. 1 when the Scots compete at the Wooster Invitational at L.C. Boles Memorial Golf Course.