CHICAGO - "Well, it's time to lace 'em up and see what we have." With those words, long-time Saint Xavier University head men's cross country coach Ed McAllister excitedly looks forward to the 2013 cross country season. "We are nine-deep and everyone should be able to produce big things on any given day," continued McAllister. The twosome of senior Brian Corcoran (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice) and sophomore Eric Hancock (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka), both NAIA national qualifiers in 2012, are expected to lead the Cougars this season. Closely following that pair comes the "pack". This group includes the senior trio of Shane Kenney (Porter, Ind./Chesterton), Chris Sarna (Palos Hills, Ill./Stagg) and Chris Shellenberger (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point). Returning to the Cougars "pack" is junior Kyle Counter (Manhattan, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central), following a year battling recurrent injuries. Newcomers are senior transfer Brian Meyer (Bloomington, Ill./Ashford University/Bloomington) and an impressive freshmen pair of Abel Hernandez (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) and Alex Ray (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) round out the Cougar roster. It is obvious why McAllister has been smiling of late.
"It is obvious to me that Corcoran and Hancock are going to have to bear a heavy load, but I am greatly impressed with what I see in these other men," said McAllister. "Shellenberger is stronger than he has ever been. Sarna, coming off a ninth-place finish in last spring's NAIA marathon, adds great strength and Shane Kenney is as consistently strong as ever. Kyle(Counter) should return to his 2011 form and has trained vigorously over the summer to do just that. The addition of Meyer is an unexpected surprise. He was a solid runner for Ashford and I expect him to be a consistent contributor. I am extremely satisfied with the progress that our freshmen are making. Usually it takes freshmen awhile to adjust to the college distance, but Abel and Alex have progressed past where I would expect them to be thus far and I see either or both of them able to score immediately for us."
Also, the Cougars have added assistant coach Arturs Bareikis to the coaching staff. McAllister and Bareikis teamed up together in 2005 for the program's last CCAC conference championship when Bareikis was a collegiate runner.
"There is no question that Arturs bring a new dimension to the table and I am very excited in how the athletes are responding to his style of training," commented McAllister.
Overall, there is a feeling that this team can become the first national qualifying squad for SXU since 2005.
"This is a very tough conference….one of the best in the nation," continued McAllister. "St. Francis (Ill.) and Olivet always are powers to be dealt with. Trinity Christian is always formidable and Cal St. Joe and Robert Morris are improved. However, I like this team's work ethic and attitude. I expect good things in November."
The Cougars open up this Saturday, August 31, at the UIC Home Opener at Horsetail Slough in Palos Heights, Ill. The race kicks off at 10:30 a.m. SXU faces a solid field of NCAA-Division I teams from the Horizon Conference in the 4.1-mile opening competition. Corcoran is the defending individual champion of the event.