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Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Championship Preview
Cross country teams geared up
for conference championships

It will be Halloween, Homecoming and a birthday weekend all rolled into one for Ashley Greenberg when she travels with her Muhlenberg teammates to Elkridge, Md., for the Centennial Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday. And the Mules plan to throw a surprise party for the rest of the conference.

Coming off a year in which the women finished seventh and the men fifth at the CC Championships, both squads are optimistic about their chances to improve.

“We’re all super excited to see how we do,” said Greenberg, whose Ashley Greenberg hometown of Owings Mills is about 40 minutes from the course. “I don’t think anyone has faith in our team except ourselves.”

The Muhlenberg women’s team hasn’t finished in the top half of the CC meet since coming in fifth in 2005, but this year has been different. The Mules have shown tangible progress, coming in eighth at the Paul Short Run, winning the third-place trophy at the DeSales Invitational and beating a Division I team at their most recent meet, the Lafayette Invitational.

“There’s a completely different vibe this year,” said Greenberg (right). “It’s like all of a sudden we’ve gotten this breakthrough. We get excited even for workouts, and we keep impressing ourselves each week and with each race.

“Everybody has more confidence in themselves and as a team,” she added. “We always take negatives and turn them into positives, as opposed to last year when it was a little harder to pick ourselves up.”

The team’s fortunes have picked up thanks to an impressive group of younger runners. Freshman Nicole Cronin was named CC runner of the week after finishing eighth at Lafayette and has been the team’s top runner all season. Another freshman, Ramzy Burns, and a pair of sophomores, Samantha Mayden and Erica Bash, have consistently been in the team’s top five, with juniors Greenberg and Melissa Ugelow also turning in solid performances.

Muhlenberg will put its new-found confidence up against a strong field that includes four of the top five teams Ryan Wilson in the Mideast Region rankings (Johns Hopkins, Dickinson, Haverford and Swarthmore) and another (Gettysburg) that’s ranked ninth in the region.

“I think it will be a competitive race, but it will be smaller than most of our meets,” said Greenberg. “It will be very neck-and-neck. Our top girls will be able to see the front line, and hopefully the rest of the team can be in a pack close behind.”

The competition will be equally as challenging on the men’s side, where Haverford, Dickinson, Johns Hopkins and Gettysburg are all ranked in the region. The Mules have been ranked as high as ninth in the region this season.

“It’s going to be nice to run with some of the nationally ranked teams in our conference,” said senior Ryan Wilson. “It will be great to mix it up with some guys who are really fast. They will help us push ourselves to our greatest abilities.”

The course on which the championship will be contested, at the Belmont Conference Center, is a brand-new course that has never been used for a meet before. Muhlenberg will bring some brand-new talent to the meet, in an outstanding freshman class that has taken its place along the more experienced runners.

Freshmen Bobby McGetrick and Charlie Kline have combined with Wilson and Bobby Torphy, both seniors, as well as sophomore Brendan Smith and junior William Lowery, to give the Mules a nice balance.

“It’s an interesting dynamic,” said Wilson (left). “It’s been cool to see the freshmen following in the seniors’ footsteps. They’re really talented and hard working, and I think everything’s going to fall into place this weekend.”

The men finished second to Division II Kutztown at the DeSales Invitational, their last competitive race. Without Torphy, an all-region runner and national qualifier last year, the Mules used the Lafayette Invitational as a tempo run.

“The way Coach Bracetty has geared us up for this season has primed us perfectly for this meet, so we’re in good position,” said Wilson. “We’ve had a great season so far, and I think we’re really going to explode.”
Click here for the championship website.

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