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Cross Country Embraces Youthful Roster

BLAKE LARGENT ’22 | SPORTS EDITOR •

With well over half of its roster comprised of underclassmen, the Wabash Cross Country team will begin its 2019 season with hopes of developing culture and growth amongst its youth.

“I think they’ll handle it well,” head coach Tyler McCreary said of his underclassmen. “But even with youth, it’s a bunch of guys who are eager to be good. We’re going to take a big shift towards culture this year and see how that helps us for where we want to go.”

Now in his second year at Wabash, McCreary looks to this season as a chance to apply his experiences from last year and become more focused for the team’s season.

“I think, if anything, that first year you just feel it out a lot,” McCreary said of his experiences last year. “There’s so much with coming to a new environment. You have to learn the college, the people, and the athletes. Now that all that is out of the way, I think I feel more focused this year. I know the guys way better, and there’s been some great recruits that have come in, so this just feels like more of a cohesive unit that we can start to go in a good direction.”

Prior to the start of the 2018 season, McCreary joined a team coming off of a third-place team finish in the 2017 North Coast Athletic Conference. This team included Dominic Patacsil ’19, who, in addition to helping his team capture the third-place finish in the conference tournament, won the individual NCAC title with a career-best time. Then, during last season, Patascil went down with an injury, altering the team’s outlook for the year.

“Last season was good, it was a year of growth more than anything,” McCreary said. “We had our number one runner, who was shooting for national championship status, go down with an injury. That kind of shifted our focus. We had a young team anyways, so that was a good chance to develop culture and the professionalism of training. I think we did a really good job and ended up performing well. It was a good year of growth and we’re just looking forward to this year.”

Despite the large number of underclassmen on the roster, McCreary sees the team’s youth as a strength going into the season, albeit with some challenges. “I think it’s going to be a strength, but it depends on how you look at it,” he said. “If you look at freshman in particular, transitioning from a 5K race to an 8K race is pretty big. But I think the guys we have are very talented. They work really hard and they come from really good high school programs. I think they’re going to be ready as long as they don’t try to do too much. If they let themselves progress, I think they’ll handle it well. That’s kind of the same thing with our sophomore class, we have a lot of big players there but it’s still a transition for them. We have some good veteran leaders that know what they’re doing and we’re going to feed off of that. I think the excitement and energy from the group will be good.”

As for the team’s expectations, McCreary continued to speak of building culture. “I mean, culture is our number one, we want to establish a culture. That’s going to set us up down the road and that will drive our results. We certainly, with the veteran talent we have and some of the youth as well, have to go into conference hoping to win. That’s going to be a goal of ours, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. Last year we wanted growth. We wanted to do well at meets but we knew we were just missing some pieces. We have expectations this year. We want to go into every meet to be competitive and get better every time and go for conference as well.”

McCreary will look to continue to build a culture and develop his team’s youth as the season progresses. The Little Giants will open up their season this evening at the Butler Opener, which will take place at Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana, at 6:45 p.m.