Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Thursday, September 2, 2004
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“Why dost thou run so many miles about?” asked Richard III in the Shakespeare play, and for the Muhlenberg cross country teams, the answer is simple: to stay near the top.

The cross country programs established a tradition of success the last several years and have been working hard in the preseason to add to that tradition. The men have finished in the top four in the Centennial Conference each of the last four years, while the women placed in the top third at the NCAA Mideast Regional two of the last three seasons.

Both teams will be relying on their youth more than ever for the 2004 season, which opens with the Lehigh Valley Championships at Lehigh
Joseph Ganser
Ganser was fourth among Muhlenberg runners at last year’s Lehigh Valley Championships.
tomorrow night.

Although the men’s team returns four seniors, none of them earned varsity letters last year. The squad’s eight returning letterwinners consist of four juniors and and four sophomores.

“That works out very well because we’re all very team-oriented,” remarked Calvin Tintle, who along with fellow senior Christopher Martin and junior Alexander Hotz will be serving as a team captain. “There aren’t a lot of big egos and everyone is a leader.”

The leader once the starting gun goes off figures to be Hotz, who is coming off an excellent 2003 campaign and has shown no effects of the injury that caused him to miss the track season. Hotz finished in the top 10 five of the six times he lined up last year. He placed fourth at the Centennial Conference Championships and matched the best finish ever by a Mule runner by coming in 10th at the NCAA Mideast Regional – missing qualifying for the NCAA Division III Championships by one spot.

“We’d love to send Alex to nationals,” said Tintle. “The training is working toward that goal. He had a terrific preseason.”

As for the rest of the team, sophomores Dave Chesny, Lex Mercado and Stephen Rothwell will be looking to move up after successful freshman seasons in both cross country and track. Junior Joseph Ganser showed great improvement last year, staying in the top seven the entire season.

Haverford, which has won every CC championship since the league was formed in 1993, is once again the team to beat. “It sounds crazy that you’re not going for the conference championship, but I think it would be a very successful season if we finished second or third,” said Tintle. “There’s a great chance for that to happen. We have the team to do it.”

The women’s team graduated a strong group of four seniors and has but one senior on its roster: Jenna Belisonzi, who is the team captain. “We lost a lot of great girls, which is kind of unfortunate, but it’s going to be a strong team,” she said. “You can see that the girls are dedicated and motivated, and it’s great to see that so early in the season.”

Belisonzi and junior Karen Mount give the Mules a solid 1-2 combo. Belisonzi was the team’s top runner in the final four races of 2003, earning second-team All-CC and All-Mideast Region honors by placing 14th and 16th, respectively, at those meets. Mount was right behind Belisonzi at the regional meet and logged three top-10 finishes.

Only two other runners who lined up for the conference meet return – junior Christy Grandjean and sophomore Elizabeth Schmitt. Four freshmen and three other newcomers to the program will get their first taste of competition at Lehigh tomorrow night.

“It’s an opportunity to run with people who are out of your league,” said Belisonzi of the opening meet, which includes Division I Lehigh and Lafayette and Division II Kutztown and East Stroudsburg. “It can only make you better, because it motivates you to be as close to their level as you can.”

Belisonzi said the team members will evaluate their performance at the Lehigh Valley Championships before setting their goals for the season. In the preseason poll, the CC coaches picked Muhlenberg for fifth, which would match their best finish ever (1997). Whether they were accurate or not, remaineth to be seen.

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Last updated September 2, 2004