WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Gallaudet University men’s and women’s cross country teams will enter the 2010 season under the direction of head coach Ben Harden and assistant coach Mikaela Gardner. The pair has been busy preparing for the new season and recruiting more students to run for the men’s or women’s team.
“Working with Mikaela is huge and has been very beneficial to me to have her on board,” said Harden, who served as an assistant coach last year under former head coach Andy Brinks. “She is knowledgeable about fitness and running. I am excited to work with her and the returning athletes we have coming back because they have some races under their belts.”
The two teams are still small in size but both teams bring balance between experienced runners and new runners.
“I feel like we have a better balance this season between experienced runners and new runners. We now have a mentorship for new athletes. There is some good talent coming in this year,” said Harden.
The major challenge for both teams right now is to keep the runners healthy. Harden is dealing with injured runners who may have pressed to hard in practice or are not ready for collegiate competition.
“We need to focus on staying healthy,” said Harden.
Senior Rose Ritz (Wauwatosa, Wis.) burst onto the scene last year for the Bison as she finished fifth overall at the Capital Athletic Conference championships to earn all-conference first team honors and advance to the NCAA regional meet where she placed 89th overall.
“Rose is on track and where we want her to be. I predict she will qualify for the conference championships and hopefully a return trip to the NCAA regionals,” said Harden.
Harden is hoping senior Kayla Castro (Tucson, Ariz.) returns to the team in 2010 because she would help give the Bison a solid 1-2 punch paired with Ritz.
Freshman Radoslava Slavova (Scranton, Pa.) and Brittney Stuckert and Leanha Lawson will help the Bison qualify as a team at meets, where the top five runners from each team earn points for their respective team.
The Gallaudet men’s team has been devastated by injuries as the top two runners from last year will start the season on the sideline. Sophomores Max Wilding (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Richard Camacho (Medford, Ore.) are out but Harden is optimistic the pair will be back soon.
“We don’t have seniority but we have Richard and Max coming back this year,” said Harden of the men’s team. “They are familiar with some of the courses we run and how the season goes. When they are healthy they will be competitive.”
Three new faces hope to help the men’s team they include; sophomore Kyle Murphy (Baton Rouge, La.), freshman Juan Munoz (Houston, Texas) and Ricky Villalobos.
“Juan has a lot of natural talent and good technique. So we just need to get him in shape for the season,” said Harden.
Gallaudet starts the cross country season in Salisbury, Md., on September 4, at the Sea Gull Opener hosted by Salisbury University. The following week the Bison will get their first taste of the North Eastern Athletic Conference as Gallaudet runs in the SUNY Cobleskill Fighting Tigers Invitational in Cobleskill, N.Y. On September 18, the Bison travel to York, Pa., to participate in the York (Pa.) College Invitational. GU starts the month of October in Hershey, Pa., at the Penn St.-Harrisburg meet, another NEAC foe. This is the first year for the Bison in the new conference. Gallaudet will stay close to home on the following two weeks as the Bison run in Towson, Md., on October 9 at the Goucher Classic and then travel to Frederick, Md., to run in the Hood College Open on October 16. Gallaudet will have a week off before the NEAC championships on October 30 in Reading, Pa. If GU has any runners qualify for the NCAA regional that will take place on November 13 in Memphis, Tenn.
The cross country programs at Gallaudet are still a work in progress but the youthful excitement and passion displayed by Harden and Gardner will help build the program up and pointed in the right direction.
“One of my big goals this year is to continue to set-up a strong base for the cross country team to develop. That way we can spend more time recruiting athletes and turn this into a program that is competitive and consistent year-in and year-out,” said Harden.
Note: It is not too late to join the cross country team. If you are interested in running for either team please contact Coach Harden at [email protected].