CHICAGO - Saint Xavier University men's cross country coach Ed McAllister appears confident as he discusses the 2011 edition of the Cougars' men's cross country team. A blend of youth and experience mark this as a solid team to watch in the upcoming season. Leading the Cougars is 2010 NAIA national finalist sophomore Brian Corcoran (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice). Corcoran was redshirted for the 2011 track season to concentrate on increasing his mileage for this cross country season.
"Brian is the most dynamic athlete that I have had the pleasure to work with here at SXU," said McAllister. "He can run with just about anyone at any level of collegiate running and I feel that his potential is unlimited. He has had the best training summer of his career and I am truly excited to see what he can do this fall."
Following Corcoran, the picture gets a bit more puzzling. These runners include senior captains Matt Rychel (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew), Andy Peters (Yellow Springs, Ohio/Yellow Springs) and second team All-Conference selection Brandon Hummer (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) and the outstanding sophomore trio of Shane Kenney (Porter, Ind./Chesterton), Chris Shellenberger (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) and Chris Sarna (Palos Hills, Ill./Stagg).
"I have the luxury of saying that I have about eight or nine runners who will fill the next spots and I am totally unsure as to what order they might be," continued McAllister.
Two outstanding newcomers are freshman Kyle Counter (Manhattan, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central), a high school State finalist from Lincoln-Way Central and junior Ricky Olmedo (Blue Island, Ill./Calumet College/Eisenhower), a transfer from Calumet-St Joseph. Finally, solid backup runners include seniors Dan Hasty (Oak Lawn, Ill./St. Laurence) and Matt Herrmann (Palos Heights, Ill./Brother Rice) and freshman Mark Catania (Tinley Park, Ill./Lincoln-Way North).
"These three are guys who are solid cross country runners, but will shine even brighter during the track season," said McAllister.
The Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) is always tough, but this season looks even tougher with Olivet Nazarene and St. Francis (Ill.) as perennial powers and Trinity Christian, Illinois Tech and Robert Morris much improved. The Cougars have been picked as runners-up in the preseason poll. McAllister is optimistic.
"I believe that we can run with anybody and feel that we have a solid opportunity to end our year in Vancouver (the site of the NAIA Cross Country Championships)," continued McAllister. The Cougars received votes on the national preseason Top 25 ratings poll.
The 2011 schedule remains a brutal list of match-ups, starting off with the UIC Opener on September 3 with the Cougars facing six NCAA Division I squads and including challenging contests at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships on September 16 and the Louisville Classic on October 1 just to name a few.
2011 could well be the finest assemblage of runners that McAllister has put together in his eight seasons at SXU and hopes run high for an elusive first conference title since 2005.