Aug. 27, 2007
PULLMAN, Wash. - Led by an experienced group of runners, as well as a fresh infusion of young talent, the Washington State University men's cross country team is looking to use last year's performance as a stepping stone to accomplish even more. The 2006 season marked a huge turnaround for the Cougars. For the first time in eight years the Cougars returned to post-season competition at the NCAA Championships. WSU placed 29th after receiving an at-large team bid.
"Last year the goal was to get to the nationals, I think that was a big step for the men's team to have gotten there," WSU Head Coach Jason Drake said. "This year the goal will be to go there and do well; improve on last year and try to be a top-20 team at the national level. I think we are very capable."
Fifth-year runner and team captain Alex Grant (Bellingham, Wash.), as well as Chris Concha (Reno, Nev.), Andrew Jones (Gillette, Wyo.), and Chris Williams (Federal Way, Wash.), will provide leadership and experience to the squad. These four runners Drake's first recruiting class and have been an essential component in turning the program around.
"I've seen the program really change from a cellar, doormat team of the conference to a team that went to nationals last year, and hopefully this year again, and finish even higher," captain Alex Grant said.
Three other returning runners competed at the NCAA meet last fall and were major contributors throughout the season. Woody Favinger (Bellingham, Wash.) consistently led the pack, Dan Geib (Reno, Nev.) emerged as a standout runner, and Drew Polley (Port Orchard, Wash.) finished in the top five throughout the season.
Joining the WSU squad a core group of freshmen who could contribute right away. Sean Coyle (Spokane Valley, Wash.), David Hickerson (Spokane, Wash.), Peter Miller (Spokane, Wash.), and Jeremy Swenson (Seattle,Wash.) bring in-state talent that could push the program to the top in the near future.
Rounding out the Cougar roster is junior Evan Blanshan (Selah,Wash.), two red-shirt sophomores Sam Ahlbeck (Renton, Wash.) and Dominic Smargiassi (Auburn, Wash.), and two red-shirt freshmen entering their first year of competition with WSU. Bob Hewitt-Gaffney (Gillette, Wyo.), and Luke Lemenger (Maple Valley, Wash.), along with Ahlbeck and Smargiassi, all have the potential to be contributors on the 2007 team.
With all the necessary components for success, the 2007 Cougar squad looks to continue its journey of improvement. After reaching their goal of competing at the NCAA Championship, the Cougars know what they need to do to improve and have spent the summer working on that journey.
"I think their goal is not just to get to the nationals but to get there and do something there and that is what we will be shooting for all season," said Drake