PAINESVILLE, OHIO - The men's and women's cross country teams open the season this weekend at the Tiffin Short Course Race hosted by Tiffin University. The teams will compete on the three kilometer-course at the Paradiso Athletic Fields Saturday morning, Sept. 5.
Junior Kyle Griffith (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey/Capital) returns to lead the men's team. The Storm's top runner in 2008 when he notched a pair of top-20 individual finishes, Griffith had an outstanding spring on the track and has continued his hard work in the offseason.
"Kyle came in last year and had a decent cross country season, but he really bought into the system in the winter and dropped is personal record time on the track in the spring and has really evolved as a runner," said fifth-year head coach Bryan Harmon. "He has that certain mentally needed to be successful as a runner. And he's rubbed off on all the guys, offering advice to the younger runners and really being like an assistant coach. We expect big things from him this year."
Also returning is sophomore Zach Adams (Dellroy, Ohio/Carrollton) who returns after missing last season. He competed in seven events as a freshman in 2007, posting three top-25 finishes.
"Zach Adams missed last year but ran for us two years ago and is a guy we will look to continue to improve throughout the season," Harmon said. "The better he is, the better we are as a team."
The newcomers include freshmen runners Craig Gerber (Fremont, Ohio/Clyde), Cody Lancaster (Eastlake, Ohio/Eastlake North) and Devin O'Neill (Concord, Ohio/Mentor). Those three figure to be in the mix for spots 2-4 in the lineup.
"Our numbers are thin, but we've got quality in those spots," Harmon said.
After the race at Tiffin, the team will run at Walsh University and Edinboro University in a tune-up for the All-Ohio Championships on Oct. 2. It's one of two meets circled on the calendar for the Storm, along with the program's first trip to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional at the end of the season.
"We took big steps last year at the All-Ohio meet and I look for us to continue that improvement," said Harmon. "It's a unique race because every school in the state competes in it, at every level. It's a chance for us to be seen within the state and earn the respect of other coaches, other runners and other teams. It's a very important meet to us.
"The regional meet will be something exciting and new and a great challenge for our program," he continued. "The distances are bumped up and to just go to a meet like that and to stay mentally tough throughout, is something that we've not experienced. We want to compete and finish that day and not fold."
With a young team, Harmon is focused on continued progression throughout the season, both individually and as a team. And not just for this year, but well into the future as well.
"We want to continue to get better," he said. "If we can have a strong showing at these early meets, that gives us a good chance for future success with a young core of runners. We can get to the point where we are a major player in big meets and that's what we want to do. We aren't going to be satisfied with just beating a few teams. There's no reason we can't run with the established programs in the state and the region and we want to do that."