(Posted September 1, 2005)

Huntingdon, PA - Sometimes everything just seems to fall into place for an athletic team. Whether it's a favorable schedule, or a lack of injury issues, when teams have memorable seasons there are usually a number of things that go right. Though it's far too early to tell whether all the pieces are going to fall into place for the Juniata College cross country teams, the 2005 seasons for both the men's and women's squads look like they have the makings of something special.

Coming off strong, but slightly disappointing seasons, both Eagles' teams return their top seven runners from the 2004 season. Both teams feature veteran, experienced runners who have been through the pressure of big meets before. Add to that, the MAC Cross Country Championships will be held in Huntingdon at the Huntingdon Country Club, and it's easy to see why Head Coach Jon Cutright believes this could be a big year for the cross country program.

"Both the men and the women have the ability to finish in the top three in the conference," Cutright stated. "There will be a lot of teams in the mix on both sides, but with our experience and talent coming back, top-three finishes are certainly possible. I think everyone is ready to go, they are all particularly excited about running the conference championships at home this year."

On the women's side the Eagles return the top seven finishers from a team that placed fifth at the MAC meet a season ago. Pacing the team will be seniors Katey Glunt (Bellefonte/Bellefonte) and Nancy Hayes (Westminster/Westminster, Md.) who both finished in the top-12 at the conference meet. Hayes earned All-Conference status with an eighth-place finish, the first runner to claim that honor during Cutright's tenure. Glunt followed that by claiming All-Region status when she placed 32nd at the NCAA Mid-East Regional. The duo will be counted on to lead Juniata's team this season.

Behind those two are a group of nine other runners who could fill out the three scoring spots behind the two top runners. Among the candidates to earn those honors are juniors Lia Bella (Morris Catholic/Rockaway, N.J.), Lauren Gates (Bishop Guilfoyle/Altoona) and Christina Jones (Fallston/Bel Air, Md.). Add to the mix a pair of sophomores who produced some fine results as freshmen, and two incoming freshmen who could also be in the mix, and the Eagles have plenty of depth to challenge the best in the conference.

"With Nancy and Katey we could have a realistic shot of having two top-five finishers," Cutright said. "After that we just need some other people to step up and have strong races at the right time. If we can stay healthy, we've got enough depth to challenge the top teams."

It's a similar situation on the men's side as seniors Justin Fritzius (Central York/York) and Chris Sheaffer (Central York/York) lead a deep and talented group. Fritzius paced the team with a 19th-place finish at the MAC meet last season, while Sheaffer countered by earning All-Region honors when he finished 24 at the NCAA Regional Meet.

From there the competition will be between some experienced performers led by seniors Mike Vella (Hollidaysburg/Hollidaysburg), Jim Serfass (Wellsboro/Wellsboro) and Jeremy Lampert (Portsmouth/Portsmouth, N.H.) and some improving youngsters. Nearly all of the team's 11 returning runners could be in the running to finish among the five best Eagles at the conference meet. Adding even more incentive is the fact that, though the team placed a respectable seventh at the MAC Championships last season, Cutright believes the men did not run their best race at the conference meet.

"Our guys feel like they have some unfinished business this season," Cutright explained. "Guys had some of their worst runs of the year at the conference championships. If we run like we are capable of we could have two guys in the top-10 and then the rest of the group in the top 35. That would make us very tough to beat."

So there it is. Juniata enters the season with veteran teams that believe they have something to prove. And to top it off, the Eagles get to run the conference championships in familiar surroundings. It certainly sounds like the recipe for a memorable season.


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.