Aug 23, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - With classes and the 2013 season just right around the corner, the Tulane Green Wave cross country program reported to the Wilson Center on the Uptown campus on Friday morning for the first time as a team this season.
The squad went through meetings with their coaching staff, as well as other key athletic department personnel before taking their annual physicals and getting acclimated to the Tulane campus.
Director of track and field and cross country Eric Peterson is expecting big things out of his team this year, as many of the top runners from the 2012 season will return, intermingling with a group of solid distance runners that were recently recruited to join the program. With these student-athletes, Peterson and his team will tackle four regular season meets before heading to Denton, Texas for the Conference USA Championship in early November - and hopefully beyond.
"I think the general outlook for the season is positive," said Peterson. "I've seen signs of growth in the program in both the men's and women's program during the last three years that have given us reason to feel really optimistic about the future. We have some student-athletes that are coming back that have significant levels of experience. We continue to get good kids for this program. I feel good about how we have upgraded the competitiveness each year in this program."
Returning to the team after a stellar 2012 campaign is junior Paige Callahan. Last season, Callahan finished her season with a 23rd place finish at the NCAA South Central Regional in a 6K with a time of 21:50.74. Just prior to that meet, the Annapolis, Md., set a new career-high in the 5K at the C-USA Championship with a finish of 17:48.80. For her efforts, she was named to the 2012 Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-Louisiana Women's Cross Country Team.
In addition to Callahan, the team will expect big things out of returning student-athletes Mikayla Sonneborn and Callie Turlington, both sophomores. Sonneborn had a solid freshman season, notching a 19:17.40 career-high at the C-USA Championship. Turlington, a senior, had her best meet of the 2012 season at the Screamin' Eagle 5K, where she placed ninth with a time of 20:04.37.
"Callie has been a really hard-working athlete, and a consistent performer," stated Peterson. "She is someone we are really going to count on this year. Mikayla, surprisingly last year, was consistently in the four spot all last year. One thing I really like about her is that she always gives everything she has. She is such a better competitor in races than what she shows in practice."
The Greenies are mixing experience with freshman talent, as they are welcoming Sara Kebede, Katharine Smiley and Allison Wegner to the team. Kebede, from San Clemente High, is one of the better mid-distance runners to come out of the state of California. Wegner (Birmingham, Mich.) and Smiley (Danville, Calif.) are also expected to post solid results for the team this year.
"My main goal for all of the freshmen is to certainly push them and make them understand immediately what Division I college athletics is all about," mentioned Peterson.
On the men's side of the team, a slew of talent returns as Mark Manion, and GeoffrEy Zelek enter their junior seasons while Nicholas Meloro, Jack White and Adam Yohanan will begin their sophomore campaigns. All had relatively strong seasons in 2012, with Manion leading the pack with a personal-best finish of 26:21.90 (8K) at the C-USA Championship last year. He was the lone male Greenie to compete at the NCAA South Central Regional, finishing in 35:58.58 (10K).
"We have a very nice collection of men that are returning with a significant amount of experience," said Peterson. "Mark Manion is similar to Paige in that he has been the face of the team for two years. He led the team at the NCAA Regional meet during his freshman year, and has not looked back. I know he'll come into this season hungry to hold his place on the team, but he'll get challenged by some of the others."
Two new faces will join the men's side of the roster, as Kade Kistner (New Braunfels, Texas) and Andrew Martz (Wheaton, Ill.) will make their collegiate debuts this year. Both wrapped up successful prep careers before agreeing to join the Green Wave family earlier this summer.
"I remember a year ago being really impressed with Adam Yohanan and Jack White right off the bat," reminisced Peterson. "It's a hard challenge for the men coming right out of high school, but they managed it well. They didn't finish the year off the way they wanted to, but they contributed to the team each year, and I think Kade and Andrew will do the same thing for us."
The squad will cut their teeth in in a little over a week when they head across town for a tri-meet against New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana on Aug. 31. After that, the team will have a two week break before heading to Brookley Pines, Ala., for the South Alabama Azalea Classic on Sept. 14.
Late September has the McNeese Invitational in store for the Greenies. In mid-October, the team will head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., for the Disney Classic. With nearly three weeks between the Disney Classic and the C-USA Championship, look for the Greenies to potentially add another meet to the schedule in order to keep the student-athletes fresh.
"I'm not going to over-race this team," stated Peterson. "I want to do a little better job than from the past by giving them adequate time to recover from races by having the every-other-weekend type schedule."
Tulane hopes to be competing well into November as the NCAA South Central Regional will be held at the Cottonwood Creek Golf Course in Waco, Texas on Nov. 15. One week later, the NCAA Championship will be held at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.
Fans can follow the Tulane track and field and cross country programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveXCTF) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.