GU HOYAS Junior Darren Fahy
Junior Darren Fahy

Next Saturday, the Georgetown cross-country program will officially kick off its season at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational in State College, Pa. In recent years, the opening meet has failed to be an accurate indicator for how the teams will fare over the course of the season.

Last season, the men placed first out of nine teams at the Navy Invitational, while the women placed first out of five teams at the Dartmouth Invitational. The men finished the season unranked, while the women finished fifth in the nation.

Then-senior Brian King led the Hoyas at the Navy Invitational with Andrew Springer finishing at a close second. Springer, who graduated last May, represented a core aspect of the Georgetown men’s cross-country program. Without Springer on the roster, the 29th-ranked Georgetown men have a new set of goals for the 2014 journey.

“Andrew was a two-time All-American and definitely someone we’re going to miss,” Men’s Assistant Coach Brandon Bonsey said. “We have a lot of young talent and guys who have put in a lot of hard work the last couple years and over the summer who can step in and fill Andrew’s shoes”

Though the Georgetown men’s team did not make an appearance at the NCAA championships last year, Springer competed at the individual level and placed 13th overall in the 10,000-meter race. Failing to qualify for the NCAA championships as a team drives the Hoyas to begin the season with a competitive nature in 2014.

GU HOYAS Senior Katrina Coogan
Senior Katrina Coogan

“We did not have a good cross-country season last fall and we’ve been talking about redeeming ourselves for a full year at this point,” Bonsey said. “We want to set the tone even from Penn State that we’re going to run hard and compete really hard.”

On the fifth-ranked women’s side, key returning upperclassmen athletes include graduate student Madeline Chambers, seniors Katrina Coogan, Annamarie Maag and junior Samantha Nadel. As team leaders, these upperclassmen will be tasked with forging a true team-like mentality.

“People focus a lot less on individual goals and think more like, ‘How can I contribute to the team’s score,’” Coogan said. “I just want to help out the team as much as I can. There are a lot of really good teams who we’re going to race but we definitely have a shot.”

An impressive freshman class will contribute to the team’s depth and strengthen the already impressive group of distance runners.

“Our team is really deep — we’re probably one of the deepest teams in the country,” Coogan said. “It’ll depend on who steps up and if everyone’s healthy, but overall I think we’ll have another really strong team like we did last year.”

Women’s Head Coach Michael Smith said that freshmen Autumn Eastman, Kennedy Weisner and Madeline Perez will all compete in distance events for Georgetown. Although the three freshmen won notable races and titles in their high school careers, Smith knows that racing at the collegiate level will be a new challenge.

GU HOYAS Junior Samantha Nadel
Junior Samantha Nadel

“They absolutely have the ability to step in and run at the level that is in Division I running, but the question is whether they’ll be able to do that as freshmen, and that I don’t know,” Smith said.

Currently ranked in the top-10 nationally, the Georgetown women’s team looks on track to reach the level of success it did last season, when it placed fifth at the NCAA championships. In the short term, its focus is training and improvement.

“We’ve got a shot at doing great things at the national level in November, but in the short term we’re just focused on getting better,” Smith said. “We’re a team with a lot of potential, but right now, today, we’re certainly not ready to race the top teams in the country.”

Some of those top teams are in the Big East, as defending NCAA champion Providence is a formidable foe for the Georgetown women. The Georgetown men will focus on Villanova, the 10th-ranked team in the country.

Demanding conditioning programs are the modus operandi at this stage of preparation for Big East play.

“Right now, the focus is on training and getting better each day and moving forward in the process,” Smith said.

The men’s and women’s teams are ready to exceed expectations that predict both squads to contend for championships at the conference and national levels.

“It’s a very interesting season,” Bonsey added. “We have high expectations but we’re also relying on a bunch of guys who are very unproven in cross-country. I’m very confident that talent will win out.”

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