Last season, the Shippensburg University men’s cross-country team finished second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) and earned the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Division II Championships.
In 2015, the team finished in fifth place, just 11 points shy of a spot on the podium.
The team is focused and determined to earn a spot on that podium come season’s end.
“We expect to be very competitive for the team championships at the PSAC and NCAA Regional meets and to also be battling for a spot on the podium at the NCAA meet,” SU cross-country coach Steve Spence said.
Even though the team fell just short of the podium, the team earned valuable experience at the meet and is poised to return.
“It was an eye opener to them,” Spence said.
“After a few years finishing in the 20s at the NCAA meet, they now believe they are one of the top teams in the country.
They need to believe in themselves, their teammates and the plan that I have devised for them.’’
For SU, the goal of reaching the podium at the NCAA Division II Championships is an extremely lofty goal. The bar has been set high by last year’s squad, and for good reason.
The team will return six of its top seven runners and all of those runners earned All-Conference and All-Region status in 2015.
The team was also picked first in the 2016 PSAC Cross Country Coaches Poll.
Last season for the Raiders, Kieran Sutton finished in second-place at the NCAA Regional, before improving his time during the track season. This season, Sutton has the potential to be one of the top runners in Division II.
Along with Sutton, Alex Balla, Braden Bruning, Calvin Conrad-Kline, Cole Nissley and the 2015 PSAC Rookie of the Year Dominic Stroh are all ready to have breakout seasons.
With the season coming up, some of the meets the team looks forward to competing at are the Paul Short meet at Lehigh University, before trying to accomplish a strong finish at the PSAC meet.
The team will then look to finish strong at the Atlantic Regional meet to run at the NCAA Championship meet.
For SU, the sky is the limit for what the 2016 squad is capable of accomplishing.
The team is determined and led by a former Olympian in Spence, who knows what it takes to keep his team focused and help them reach whatever goals they set.
The squad will start its season under the lights at SU Sept. 2 in the Galen Piper Alumni Open/Cross Country Challenge.