After losing nearly half a dozen upper classmen, this year’s cross-country team is the youngest in years.
“A lot of seniors graduated last year, so our numbers are down quite a bit,” said head coach Eric Wellman. “This reduced our numbers for this year so we have worked really hard on recruiting and maybe get some depth to the team.”
But what the team lacks in quality and experience, they make up for in quantity, Wellman said. With 25 of the 28 runners being freshman or sophomores, Wellman said he hopes to turn the quantity back into quality and has high hopes for the next couple of years.
“We made sure to make the effort to get out and talk to kids,” Wellman said. “I don’t know what we did in the past to not have the numbers. I just know whatever we did this year to bring them in worked.”
Wellman said their goal last year was to have at least half a dozen new runners – a goal they surpassed – recruiting 10 new runners this season.
“I have loved running since my freshman year in high school and really wanted to do it in college,” said freshman psychology Dominique Staats. “Emporia State seemed like a great place, and the coaches seemed awesome. I came to visit for track, and I talked a bit with coach Wellman and coach Blocker, and they convinced me to run cross-country.”
Since the men and women practice together, Wellman said the guys have done a great job leading the team.
“It is more like a family than a team,” said sophomore wildlife biology major Travis Sipe. “We run together and travel to meets together. Being around each other all the time, you get to know the other runners really well, and it does become a family.”
Wellman said there are also some senior sprinters from the track team who are running with the team to prepare for track season and have become team leaders.
“They are still on the roster but will more than likely not run in our first meet,” Wellman said. “I am going to try to run them in our home meet, but they won’t travel with us as much.”
Since they have the numbers, Wellman said they will not recruit as hard next year, but will work on improving their skills. The team will run in their first meet in Joplin, Mo. Sept. 15.