Depth a Key Role for Cross Country Squads

Depth a Key Role for Cross Country Squads

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Having lost just one senior to graduation on each of the men's and women's rosters; Ohio Dominican's cross country teams enter the 2013 season with plenty of depth and experience on both sides.

Like last year, the men's side returns just one senior, as 10 of the 16 runners are returning sophomores and juniors. Three freshmen complete the roster for ODU this fall. On the women's side, four of the 18 runners are seniors.

With the amount of depth and experience returning to this year's roster, ODU will look to improve on their 2012 campaign, where the men placed 15th and the women 14th at the GLIAC Championships.

"We are very excited for this year's cross country season," stated head coach Paul Benedict. "We will have our biggest recruiting class and roster to date. With seven freshmen on both the men and women's side, we hope to raise the bar for Ohio Dominican cross country." "With the leadership of our seniors, mixed with the depth of our team, I know we are capable of leaving a mark in the conference this year."

Highlighting the returners on the men's side is sophomore Austin Kilgore (Pickerington, Ohio), who was the Panthers top performer at the GLIAC meet. Other top performers for ODU at the GLIAC meet included junior Michael Barber (New Franklin, Ohio), sophomore Connor Callahan (Columbus, Ohio), sophomore Brendan Walburn (Hebron, Ohio) and junior Jason Williams (Powell, Ohio).

Christopher Liebold (Green Springs, Ohio) returns as the lone senior for the men's team

Juniors Ashton Hill (Huber Heights, Ohio), Ethan Miller (Monclova, Ohio), Matthew Richardson (Columbus, Ohio), Dominick Smith (Dayton, Ohio) and sophomore Luke Howard (Columbus, Ohio) will return this season to round out the men's lineup.

"My goal each year is to significantly improve from last year's performances and I am confident we will have five men under 26 minutes for the 8k" said Benedict. "We are also looking forward to watching Kilgore and Barber improve even more from last season."

On the women's side, ODU lost Hali Cassidy to graduation but return most of the squad from last year. Junior Tara Walker (Lewis Center, Ohio) was ODU's top performer throughout 2012. Walker competed in all six meets for the Panthers and placed in the top five in three of them. She was honored with GLIAC Cross Country Runner of the Week twice last season, the first runner at ODU to earn the award. At the Wilmington Invitational, Walker broke the school record with a time of 18:17.5 and finished fifth out of 340 runners. She placed third at the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational, marking it the best finish by any ODU runner since transitioning to NCAA Division II.

"Tara will be fun to watch this season," stated Benedict. "She was one of our top runners as a sophomore and we can't wait to see the improvements she will make this year as a junior."

Seniors Mallory Kitts (Springfield, Ohio), Kelly Litt (Mansfield, Ohio), Michelle McKean (Pataskala, Ohio), and Bethany Molnar (Shreve, Ohio) return as well, and are expected to provide a great deal of leadership and experience.

"I am confident the women's team will have at least five under 20 minutes for the 5k," noted Benedict.

Benedict's final remarks were, "In the past two years, we've been able to overcome a lot of challenges as a cross country program as we were still a fairly new team and an infant in the GLIAC. I believe this team is ready for the level of competition we face in the conference, and are willing to not only participate, but to compete."

The Panthers start their season at the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational on Saturday, September 7.

Contact: Sarah Twiggs