Mountaineers ready to make run at title in 2012
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:08
As West Virginia enters the Big 12 Conference this year, every program is hoping to make an immediate impact and solidify itself as a contender.
Football has many challenges but is posed to make a great run this season. A young basketball team is looking to bounce back from an early exit in last year’s NCAA tournament.
And the Mountaineer cross country team is looking to make an impact quickly, with a roster full of runners returning after a solid campaign last season.
The Mountaineers are led by head coach Sean Cleary, who couldn’t be more eager to see his runners start hitting the pavement. He knows the Big 12 presents a huge challenge, but he believes he has some of the best runners in the nation on his team.
"There is no reason why we won’t find success in this conference," Cleary said. "The last five years we have witnessed the most prolific years in the program’s history. We graduated seven all-Americans; there is not a team in America that loses so much firepower.
"To lose seven in such a short amount of time and still feel comfortable with the next generation is a tribute to how far this team has come."
With new recruits and several returning runners, the future does indeed look bright for the team.
Sarah-Anne Brault and Katie Gillespie will be the leaders of this young squad and look to guide the Mountaineers to success. The runners started training early this year in order to be ready for the new level of competition.
"The girls have been hitting the roads, building the foundation that should allow them to not only enjoy cross country success, but also be conditioned well enough to last through June. It is a very long year for many of these girls. The initial preparations begin in the summer. I am pleased with what they have done to prepare themselves," Cleary said.
With an early start to the season, it’s hard not to start thinking about a national title. Cleary feels confident in the group he recruited, and he knows what kind of athletes are needed to make a historic run.
"We will need to continue recruiting the types of student-athletes that we have always tried to bring on campus. It will not be that long before we harbor thoughts of national titles again," he said.
Cleary is aware of the new competition that faces him and the team. The way he prepares and trains the team gets him ready for each race, so it is not the new schools that worry him, but another factor he cannot control that is starting to bother him.
"One main factor for this group is the potential inclement weather that we might face. Running in Austin, Texas in October can very well be different than preparing for Wisconsin or Syracuse. Realistically, we must be ready for the heat."
Success has a flexible definition – coaches define success in different ways. For Cleary, success is clearly going out there and having everyone give their 100 percent effort.
"Preparing to the best of our abilities and executing our race plans to the best of abilities is the main thing, it’s as simple as that. If we are a national title class it will show in the results," he said. "Giving 100 percent effort in preparation and racing is what we strive for. Do that, and we
will be happy with the results."
West Virginia will start its season Aug. 31st with the WVU Alumni Open in Morgantown. Cleary will take that opening race and fine tune his team to be ready for the PSU Spiked Shoe on Sept. 8.