2019 CWRU Men’s Cross Country Season Preview

2019 CWRU Men’s Cross Country Season Preview

Coming off the highest national finish for the program in the last 15 years, and with three of the team's top-five finishers and four of its seven competitors at the NCAA Championships set to return, the Case Western Reserve University men's cross country team has high expectations for the 2019 campaign.

After receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championships in 2018, the Spartans placed 21st overall among the field of 32 teams at the national meet, marking the team's highest national finish since placing 20th overall at the 2003 NCAA Championships.

"Finishing 21st in the country last year and returning with most of the team means that we are going to be really strong this year," said Head Coach Kathy Lanese, who is starting her 19th season at the squad's helm in 2019.  "There is no question that we are looking for a national bid, but we have to prove ourselves one week at a time."

The high expectations are not only internal for the Spartans.  Case Western Reserve will start the season ranked third in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association Great Lakes Region poll, the team's highest regional ranking ever in a preseason poll, and matching the highest regional ranking at any point in a season since the USTFCCCA records started in 2008.

Case Western Reserve will be looking for its 12th NCAA Championship appearance as a team in 2019, and will be aiming to qualifying in back-to-back season for the first time since 1977.

The Spartans return a pair of runners who placed in the top-100 at the NCAA Championships last year, including junior Trey Razanauskas and senior David Hall.  Razanauskas made an immediate impact in his first year with the Spartans in 2018, finishing among the team's top-four in six of the seven meets, while leading the team in its final three meets of the campaign – the UAA Championships, the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships, and the NCAA Championships.  In addition to placing 64th at the NCAA Championships, Razanauskas earned All-UAA Second Team honors with a 14th-place finish at the conference meet, and All-Region honors with a 13th-place finish at the Great Lakes Regionals.

Hall had a breakthrough junior campaign last year, including a 30th-overall finish (sixth among DIII runners) at the All-Ohio Championships, while claiming an All-Region award with a 16th-place finish at the Great Lakes meet.

Other returning competitors from last year's NCAA Championship squad are sophomore Spencer Weigand, who earned a spot on the UAA All-Freshman team last year, and senior Tim Andrews, who was the seventh finisher for the team at both regionals and NCAAs.  In addition, senior Karthik Ravichandran and junior Yoshmar Pinal-Alfaro and Eric Rachita each tallied scoring finishes for the Spartans at points last season.

"Knowing what it is like at the big dance, and getting those jitters out last year was important, especially for a young team," said Lanese.

Thirteen other upperclassmen will hope to make an impact on this year's team, graduate student Andrew Gold, senior Michael Hradesky, juniors Dmytro Blundell, Daniel Grasing, Rory Owens, Thomas Patton and Ryan Tatton, and sophomores Ben Browngardt, Maxwell GriesheimerAlex LoeperRahul Mikkilineni, Bryden Moxley and Logan Singer.

In addition to the returners looking to compete for a scoring spot on the team, a strong freshman class will likely have a large impact on the upcoming campaign.

"Robert St. Clair, Joe Jaster and Jack Begley are three who could insert themselves in the top-10 on the team, and two of those guys could be in our top-five on any given day," said Lanese.  "So, in my opinion, we have a stronger team than we did last year."

Freshmen Jacob Conard, Will Dehmler and Parker Straight will also be aiming to make an early impact on the team during their first season of collegiate competition.

The Spartans are slated to kick off their season on Saturday, August 31st, when the team hosts the annual Sudeck Classic Stampede at the Squire Valleevue Farm in Hunting Valley, Ohio.  Slated to compete along with the Spartans are Allegheny College and John Carroll University (ranked fifth in the Great Lakes Region).  The men's 6K race is scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. start.

Following the Sudeck Classic, the Spartans will be tested against some of the region's top competition (including the region's top-ranked Calvin Knights) at the Calvin Invitational on September 7th.

"We have not set any goals yet.  We want to get through our first two meets and see how we fit into the mix and talk about how we raced.  Then, I think we are going to start surprising people in the meets to come," said Lanese.

The Spartans will have two more meets September, participating in the Gator Invitational at Allegheny College on September 14th, and taking part in the All-Ohio Championships at Cedarville University on September 28th.  CWRU will then turn its attention to the Pre-National meet at Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky (home of the 2019 NCAA Championships) for a mid-season litmus test.

"October 5th in the culmination of the early part of the season.  We need to be able to score well at the Pre-National meet.  It will be indicative of the type of success we could have," said Lanese.

The Spartans will conclude the October portion of their schedule with the Inter-Region Rumble at Oberlin College on October 19th, before turning their attention towards the championship portion of their schedule.  CWRU will travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 2nd for the always-competitive UAA Championships.  Seven of the eight teams slated to contend for the UAA title this year are regionally ranked in the preseason, including four teams ranked among the top three squads in their respective regions.

Case Western Reserve will return to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 16th for the 2019 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships, as the Spartans will look to qualify for the NCAA Championships by finishing among the top-two teams at the meet, or placing high enough to secure an at-large bid.  Should the team qualify for the second-straight year, CWRU will travel back to Louisville for the NCAA Championships on November 23rd.

Fans can follow the Spartans throughout the season on athletics.case.edu, where previews, results and recaps for each meet will be posted, including for this Saturday's Sudeck Classic Stampede.