2013 Cross Country Preview
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia University cross country team looks to build on its success during its first season in the Big 12 Conference.
The Mountaineers enter 2013 with one of their most talented teams in recent years. A solid mix of experience, youth and overall depth has West Virginia poised to compete nationally, while running in its second season in the Big 12 Conference.
The Mountaineer squad features 10 freshmen and five sophomores on their roster in 2013. The group is filled with young runners with the potential to immediately contribute to the program.
“Time will tell if this class turns out to be the finest or one of the finest classes, but we are excited about their high school accomplishments and their desire to come in and run for the Gold and Blue,” said West Virginia head coach Sean Cleary said.
Sean Cleary enters his 22nd season with Mountaineers, and seventh as head coach. He has experienced a great deal of success and has seen his runners garner five cross country All-America accolades and 25 track All-America recognitions since 2007.
“I think we take care of our runners, make plans and cycle them in and out of competition,” Cleary said. “Ultimately, I want to see every single kid blow away expectations.”
Gillespie Emerges as New Leader
Kaitlyn Gillespie is poised to step in as the face of the WVU cross country team in 2013. Gillespie earned All-America honors in 2010 and 2011, however, was forced to take a medical redshirt in 2012. She is a talented senior runner with the opportunity to earn a third All-America distinction this season.
“Everyone has a role as seniors. I expect them to take care of these new faces, and I see Katie as the backbone of that,” Cleary said. “She is an all-around student-athlete and has the sheer desire and work ethnic needed to be successful.”
Coach Cleary added three more runners from the state of West Virginia this season, bringing the team total to eight. The Mountaineers have always had a roster filled with local talent and the local interest in distance running has been exceptional. In fact, five runners on the roster are Morgantown, W.Va., natives.
“The state of West Virginia is filled with talented runners,” Cleary said. “Sometimes they get overlooked when it comes to recruiting, but they always seem to prove their worth in college, and I’m always thrilled to see local talent develop.”
After serving as the vice president for two years, Cleary was named the President of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The non-profit organization represents Track & Field and Cross Country coaches at all levels. It serves as an advocate for both sports, while also providing a leadership structure to assist the needs of its membership.
“I really believe it’s a privilege to be the head coach at West Virginia and with that comes the responsibility that we hold this institution in a great light,” Cleary said. “We’re shaping and scoping the future of the sport. But I think the biggest thing as coaches is we are mentors to these kids, we’re mentors to other coaches and we are put in positions to build relationships with high school coaches and other coaches, where we should give back.”
The Mountaineers were well represented in the 40th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland in March 2013. Three returning WVU runners crossed the finish line in the top 50, with all three representing different countries. Sophomore Sydney Scott finished 38th while representing the United States. Freshman Jillian Forsey crossed the finish line in 49th representing Canada and freshman Amy Cashin finished 50th representing Australia. This is just one example of the multiple international honors West Virginia runners have recently received.
The Mountaineers have experienced a great deal of success off the field with Cleary at the helm. Six runners from the 2012 team earned USTFCCCA All-Academic distinctions. The WVU cross country team posted a perfect APR score of 1,000 in 2011, and followed that up with a near-perfect score of 996 in 2012.
“A vast majority of the girls in our program could go to Harvard, Princeton, Yale or other premiere academic institutions,” Cleary said. “They could be at these types of institutions, but they have faith that West Virginia, both athletically and academically, can allow them to reach their goals.”
Sean Cleary, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference, NCAA women's cross country
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